As Iraqi forces close in on Mosul, the jihadists’ last main bastion in the country, officials say IS has fighters deployed at or near archaeological sites. This has put Iraqi heritage sites at risk during the operation to retake Mosul from the jihadists.
In 2014 IS had vandalised the Mosul museum after overrunning the city. The IS militants had attacked sites including the ancient cities of Hatra and Nimrud, posting videos lauding the destruction online.
IS had earlier set up a training camp at Hatra, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, and still has militants deployed there. When the operation to retake Mosul was launched on October 17, the head of UNESCO urged parties to the conflict to protect heritage sites.
Both UNESCO and Iraq’s culture ministry said they gave coordinates of heritage sites to anti-IS forces in an effort to protect them.
The attacks on Iraqi cultural heritage have been carried out for propaganda purposes, and IS has stolen and sold artifacts that it allegedly reviles to fund its operations.