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Iraqi forces retake ancient city blown up by ISIS

Iraqi troops pushed towards Nimrud last week.

In this 2005 file photo, a temple to the Shamash sun god still stands over 1,750 years after the Sassanian empire razed the Mesopotamian city of Hatra, 320 kilometres north of Baghdad.
In this 2005 file photo, a temple to the Shamash sun god still stands over 1,750 years after the Sassanian empire razed the Mesopotamian city of Hatra, 320 kilometres north of Baghdad.
Image: Antonio Castaneda/AP/Press Association Images

IRAQI FORCES SAY they have recaptured the Nimrud area, the site of an ancient Assyrian city blown up by the Islamic State group, as they battled the jihadists south of Mosul.

Iraqi troops pushed towards Nimrud last week as they pressed an offensive launched on 17 October to recapture Iraq’s second city, which the jihadists seized along with swathes of Iraq and Syria in mid-2014.

A Kurdish-Arab alliance is pursuing a twin offensive against the other major city still under IS control, Raqa in Syria, and a US-led coalition is backing both assaults with air strikes.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC) said troops had retaken the Nimrud area and another village southeast of the famed archeological site.

“Units of the 9th Armoured Division completely liberate the Nimrud (area) and raise the Iraqi flag over the buildings,” the JOC said in a statement.

It did not specifically mention the Nimrud archaeological site, which is located a little more than a kilometre west of the village that bears its name.

Nimrud was the one of the great centres of the ancient Middle East. Founded in the 13th century BC, it became the capital of the Assyrian empire, whose rulers built vast palaces and monuments that have drawn archaeologists for more than 150 years.

In April last year, IS posted video on the internet of its fighters smashing monuments before planting explosives around the site and blowing it up.

It was part of a campaign of destruction against heritage sites under jihadist control that also took in ancient Nineveh on the outskirts of Mosul, Hatra in the desert to the south and Palmyra in neighbouring Syria.

IS says the ancient monuments are idols that violate the teachings of its extreme form of Sunni Islam but has still sold artefacts to fund its operations.

© – AFP 2016

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