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ISIS Damages Iraq’s Hatra Archaeological Site in Purported Video

Video Reportedly Shows ISIS Forces Destroying Ancient Relics 0:46

BAGHDAD — ISIS extremists at Iraq's ancient city of Hatra destroyed the archaeological site by smashing sledgehammers into its walls and shooting Kalashnikov assault rifles at priceless statues, a new militant video purportedly from the group shows.

Militants attacked Hatra, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage site, last month, officials and local residents said.

The video, released overnight Friday, shows a militant on a ladder using a sledgehammer to bang repeatedly on the back of one of the carved faces until it crashes to the ground and breaks into pieces. The video also shows a militant firing a Kalashnikov rifle at another, while men chop away the bases of some of the larger wall sculptures.

One of the militants, who speaks Arabic on the video, declares they destroyed the site because it is "worshipped instead of God." ISIS has been destroying ancient relics they say promote idolatry that violates their fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law. Authorities also believe they've sold others on the black market to fund their atrocities.

Local government officials told the AP last month the militant group had looted and destroyed several ancient sites, including the 3,000 year-old Nimrud, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Another video released in February showed militants smashing artifacts in the Mosul Museum and in January, the group burned hundreds of books from the Mosul library and Mosul University, including many rare manuscripts.

Hatra, located 110 kilometers (68 miles) southwest of the Islamic State-held city of Mosul, was a large fortified city during the Parthian Empire and capital of the first Arab kingdom. The site is said to have withstood invasions by the Romans in A.D. 116 and A.D. 198 thanks to its high, thick walls reinforced by towers.

The video's release comes after the Iraqi government this week claimed victory against ISIS in Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit. Seizing Tikrit was key to an eventual campaign to retake Mosul — and the historic sites near it.

IN-DEPTH

— The Associated Press