BAGHDAD — Islamic State militants hammered, bulldozed and ultimately blew up parts of the ancient Iraqi Assyrian city of Nimrud, destroying a site dating back to the 13th century B.C., an online militant video purportedly shows.
The destruction at Nimrud, located near the militant-held city of Mosul, came amid other attacks on antiquity carried out by the group now holding a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate. The attacks have horrified archaeologists and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who last month called the destruction at Nimrud "a war crime."
The seven-minute video, posted late Saturday, shows bearded militants using sledgehammers, jackhammers and saws to take down huge alabaster reliefs depicting Assyrian kings and deities. A bulldozer brings down walls, while militants fill barrels with explosives and later destroy three separate areas of the site in massive explosions.
"God has honored us in the Islamic State to remove all of these idols and statutes worshipped instead of Allah in the past days," one militant says in the video. Another militant vows that "whenever we seize a piece of land, we will remove signs of idolatry and spread monotheism."
The militants have been destroying ancient relics they say promote idolatry that violate their fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law, including the ancient Iraqi city of Hatra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Authorities also believe they've sold others on the black market to fund their atrocities.
Some of the figures in the video released Saturday at Nimrud appeared to have rebar, ribbed bars of steels designed to reinforce concrete that are a technique of modern building. An Iraqi Antiquities Ministry official, speaking to the Associated Press on Sunday on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to talk to journalists, said all the items at Nimrud were authentic. In March, both Iraqi and U.N. officials warned the site had been looted and damaged.