One of the most important archaeological and cultural treasures in the world has been destroyed by the Islamic State, according to Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
“The Islamic State has assaulted the historic city of Nimrod, bulldozing it with heavy vehicles,” the ministry announced on Facebook.
“Until now, we do not know to what extent it was destroyed,” Al Arabiya reports an official as saying.
“I cannot even describe the immensity of this loss,” said Ihsan Fethi, a member of the Iraqi Architects Society. “This is one of the most famous and probably one of the most important sites in the world.”
The attack near Mosul reportedly began after noon prayers on Thursday.
So far, there has not been independent confirmation of the destruction.
The ancient Assyrian city south of Mosul on the Tigris river covers nearly 900 acres and contains numerous archaeological treasures, including 3,000 year old bas-reliefs depicting hunters and bird-headed genies.
According to the Islamic State interpretation of Islam, statues, idols and shrines represent idolatry and must be destroyed.
Earlier this year, the group announced plans to destroy all pre-Islamic artifacts, including the restored city gates in Nineveh. The site dates from about 700 BC.
In February the Islamic State destroyed priceless Assyrian artifacts with sledgehammers at the antiquities museum in Mosul.
“The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him,” a man declared in a video released by the Islamic State showing the destruction.
In addition to priceless statues of winged bulls from the Mesopotamian cities of Nineveh and Nimrod, IS destroyed statues from Hatra, a Hellenistic-Parthian city in northern Iraq dating back 2,000 years, according to Lamia al-Gailani, an Iraqi archaeologist and associate fellow at the London-based Institute of Archaeology.
The Islamic States has destroyed other shrines, including the mosque of the Prophet Yunus (Jonah), the mosque of the Prophet Jerjis (Saint George), the Mashad Yahya Abul Kassem shrine, and a shrine dedicated to the Prophet Seth.