The United Nations’ cultural body on Saturday condemned the “destruction” by the Islamic State jihadist group of Hatra, a stunning Roman period ancient fortress city in the Iraqi desert.
The destruction of the UNESCO world heritage site was reported two days after the Iraqi antiquities ministry said that IS bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, and a week after the jihadists released a tape of them smashing artefacts in the Mosul museum.
“The destruction of Hatra marks a turning point in the appalling strategy of cultural cleansing under way in Iraq,” UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said.
Hatra is an extremely well-preserved city with a unique mix of eastern and western architecture, located in a desert area about 60 miles (100 kilometres) southwest of the northern jihadist hub of Mosul.
“Official sources today reported the destruction of the World Heritage property of Hatra,” the organisation said in a statement.
The UNESCO statement did not say when or how Hatra, which was built around 2,200 years ago, was destroyed, nor was any Iraqi official able to provide such details.
Mohammed Nuri, an MP from southern Nineveh province, where Hatra is located, said that “until this moment, there are no confirmed reports that Hatra has been destroyed.”
“Hatra is somewhat isolated, and residents are not nearby,” he said. “I have not heard of someone who physically saw the destruction taking place.”
A statement from Iraq’s tourism and antiquities ministry also condemned the destruction of the city, but it only cited media reports and did not directly confirm the incident.
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