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UNESCO Says ISIS' Destruction Of Ancient Nimrud Monuments Is "A War Crime"

The Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said Friday that the militant group had bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city on Thursday.

Last updated on March 6, 2015, at 8:24 a.m. ET

Posted on March 5, 2015, at 4:51 p.m. ET

Lisa Ackerman, Executive VP of World Monuments Fund (WMF) said in a statement to BuzzFeed News:

The Nimrud situation is frightening as these sites have survived many changes in political and religious power over the centuries. We accept that man has destroyed heritage sites since time began, but today the stakes are higher as the tools are more destructive and the news more immediate. For WMF, these are difficult times, as the visual information is heartbreaking as we think about our Iraqi and Syrian colleagues whose lives are being forever disrupted by the violence.

Updated: Mar. 6, 8:19 a.m — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has described the reported bulldozing of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in northern Iraq by ISIS militants as a "war crime."

Radu Sigheti / Reuters

On Thursday, Iraq's Ministry of Tourism said that the fighters from the group had "violated" the city and "bulldozed" its treasures. Iraqi state broadcaster Iraqiya TV said Friday that the extent of the damage was unclear, CNN reported.

On Friday, UNESCO's Director General released a statement condemned the destruction of the treasures, describing it as a "war crime" and "criminal chaos":

I condemn in the strongest possible manner the destruction of the archaeological site of Nimrud site in Iraq. This is yet another attack against the Iraqi people, reminding us that nothing is safe from the cultural cleansing underway in the country: it targets human lives, minorities, and is marked by the systematic destruction of humanity's ancient heritage.

We cannot remain silent. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity's cultural heritage

I call on all of those who can, especially youth, in Iraq and elsewhere, to do everything possible to protect this heritage, to claim it as their own, and as the heritage of the whole of humanity.

I appeal also to all cultural institutions, museums, journalists, professors, and scientists to share and explain the importance of this heritage and the Mesopotamian civilization. We must respond to this criminal chaos that destroys culture with more culture.

I have alerted the president of the Security Council as well as the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The entire international community must join its efforts, in solidarity with the government and people of Iraq, to put an end to this catastrophe.

Nimrud and nearby Nineveh contain depictions of successful military campaigns by two Assyrian kings Sennacherib (704-681 B.C.) and Assurnasirpal II (883-859 B.C.) along their walls, according to the charity World Monuments Fund (WMF), which aims to protect and preserve ancient monuments around the world. Among the images on the walls are those of marauding foreign troops.

The charity's website says the monuments are "vestiges of the political, cultural, and artistic height of the Assyrian Empire."

The WMF had helped preserve the treasures at Nimrud following the 2003 Iraq War, replacing a protective cover that had being looted. BuzzFeed News has contacted the charity for comment, and is awaiting response.

Here's the original report:

Radu Sigheti / Reuters

ISIS militants have bulldozed the ancient Nimrud archaeological site near the city of Mosul, the Iraqi government said Thursday.

Iraq's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said in a Facebook post that the militants used military equipment to damage the ancient city, according to the Associated Press.

The ancient Assyrian city is one of the nation's most treasured historical sites and is home to many priceless artifacts from the 13th century and beyond.

The government did not say exactly how much of the site was damaged, but said the group is continuing to "defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity."

A government official told AFP that the militants might have used trucks to remove some of the artifacts from the site.

The news comes after a video was released showing ISIS militants destroying ancient artifacts with sledgehammers.

The group claims that such items must be destroyed because people begin to worship them instead of Allah.

"Our prophet ordered us to remove all these statues as his followers did when they conquered nations," a man said in the video.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.

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