Monday 20 November 2017

Iraqi forces say they have seized Hatra antiquities site

Iraqi forces say they have captured Hatra. (AP/Antonio Castaneda)
Iraqi forces say they have captured Hatra. (AP/Antonio Castaneda)

Iraqi forces say they have captured Hatra, a 2,000-year-old historical site near the northern city of Mosul where a battle with the Islamic State group has been raging for months.

The media arm of the state-sanctioned force made up mainly of Shiite militias broadcast images of the site, showing what appeared to be the ancient ruins in the distance as militia vehicles drove through open desert.

It was unclear from the video if the forces had actually secured the ancient site.

Karim al-Nouri, a spokesman for the paramilitary forces, told state TV they captured the Unesco world heritage site and were around two miles from a nearby town with the same name, without providing further details.

Iraqi forces often claim to have driven IS from areas that are still far from secure, or that quickly fall back into the militants' hands.

Hatra is believed to have been built in the second or third century BC by the Seleucid Empire.

IS militants destroyed it along with other major historical sites in and around Mosul after seizing much of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014.

The extremist group believes antiquities promote idolatry, though it is also believed to sell artefacts on the black market to fund its operations.

In April 2015, IS released a video showed the extremists smashing sledgehammers into Hatra's walls and firing assault rifles at priceless statues.

At one point, the video showed a militant on a ladder using a sledgehammer to bang repeatedly on the back of a carved face until it crashed to the ground and broke into pieces.

Hatra, located about 68 miles south west of Mosul, flourished during the first and second centuries as a religious and trading centre.

It 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 AD 116 and AD 198 thanks to its high, thick walls.

AP

Press Association

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