Islamic State Militants Destroy Ancient Artifacts at Mosul Museum

Islamic State militants appeared to smash statues and sculptures from the Assyrian and Akkadian eras using sledgehammers and drills.

A flag of the Islamic State (IS) is seen on the other side of a bridge at the frontline of fighting between Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Islamist militants in Rashad, on the road between Kirkuk and Tikrit, on September 11, 2014. Ten Arab states, including heavyweight Saudi Arabia, agreed today in Jeddah to rally behind Washington in the fight against Islamic State jihadists, as it seeks to build an international coalition. AFP PHOTO/JM LOPEZ (Photo credit should read JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Islamic State militants released a video Thursday appearing to show men destroying artifacts, some dating back to the 7th century BC, at an antiquities museum in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The militants appeared to smash statues and sculptures from the Assyrian and Akkadian eras using sledgehammers and drills. In the video, a man said, “The prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics.” The video has not been independently verified, though UNESCO said it is checking it. Islamic State militants seized the museum when they overran Mosul in June 2014, and the Financial Action Task Force reported the fighters control more than 4,500 archaeological sites, including UNESCO world heritage sites. UNESCO chief Irina Bokova said, “This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy – this is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq.” She called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.


The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported U.S.-led airstrikes targeted Islamic State militants in northeastern Syria Thursday. The strikes hit near the town of Tel Tamr, in an area where Islamic State militants seized around 10 Assyrian villages and abducted hundreds of people this week. One monitoring group estimated 220 Assyrian Christians had been captured, while the Syriac Military Council reported 350 people had been abducted. Meanwhile, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres told the U.N. Security Council Thursday that Syria’s refugee crisis is approaching a “dangerous turning point.” He noted that 3.8 million people had been registered in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey after being displaced by the Syrian conflict, and he called on European countries to accept more refugees.


  • A U.S. court in New York on Thursday convicted a Saudi Arabian former aide to Osama Bin Laden, Khaled al-Fawwaz, on four conspiracy counts including the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa.
  • Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi accused Saudi Arabia of destabilizing Yemen after reports the Saudi ambassador decided to move to the southern city of Aden.
  • U.N. sanctions monitors have called for an international maritime force for Libya to help enforce an arms embargo and stop illicit oil exports.
  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guards reported Friday a new weapon, called “Great Prophet 9,” had been tested during military drills held near the Strait of Hormuz.

Arguments and Analysis

Libya: Getting Geneva Right’ (International Crisis Group)

“Libya’s deteriorating internal conflict may be nearing a dramatic turning point. Over six months of fighting between two parliaments, their respective governments and allied militias have led to the brink of all-out war. On the current trajectory, the most likely medium-term prospect is not one side’s triumph, but that rival local warlords and radical groups will proliferate, what remains of state institutions will collapse, financial reserves (based on oil and gas revenues and spent on food and refined fuel imports) will be depleted, and hardship for ordinary Libyans will increase exponentially. Radical groups, already on the rise as the beheading of 21 Egyptians and deadly bombings by the Libyan franchise of the Islamic State (IS) attest, will find fertile ground, while regional involvement – evidenced by retaliatory Egyptian airstrikes – will increase. Actors with a stake in Libya’s future should seize on the UN’s January diplomatic breakthrough in Geneva that points to a possible peaceful way out; but to get a deal between Libyan factions – the best base from which to counter jihadis – they must take more decisive and focused supportive action than they yet have.”

Jordan’s Syrian refugees’ (Omer Karasapan, The Brookings Institution)

“Jordan is home to over 600,000 Syrian refugees registered with the United Nations. Actual numbers are estimated to be twice that. These refugees, despite a curtailing of health services and the occasional deportation, are unlikely to be going home soon, if ever. This mirrors the situation in Turkey and Lebanon, which host Syrian refugee populations of 1.7 and 1.4 million respectively. An earlier post on this blog looked at Turkey’s attempts to deal with these refugees by legalizing their presence and absorbing them into the economy. The social and economic dynamics in Jordan are different. The country is much smaller (a population of 6 million versus 77 million) and the economy equally smaller and quite different. For example, well over 60 percent of Jordan’s formal employment is in the public sector. Yet the dynamics of the Jordanian economy may still provide a reasonable chance for integrating the refugees and avoiding a permanent refugee underclass. Indeed, while Syrians account for approximately 20 percent of the population and tensions inevitably occur, the situation remains less than explosive (so far…) due to a number of factors specific to the Jordanian economy and the Syrian refugees.”

Mary Casey-Baker

JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

 Twitter: @casey_mary

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