Middle East

Nimrud: Iraqi forces 'retake ancient city from IS'

Still from IS video, reportedly showing explosion at the ancient site of Nimrud Image copyright AFP
Image caption IS posted a video showing explosions at Nimrud after capturing it

Iraqi government forces say they have captured Nimrud, the site of an ancient Assyrian city overrun by Islamic State (IS) group militants two years ago.

In March 2015, officials and historians condemned IS for the destruction of the archaeological site, which dates back to the 13th Century BC.

The UN's cultural body described the act as a war crime.

IS says shrines and statues are "false idols" that have to be smashed.

Nimrud lies about 30km (20 miles) south-east of the major city of Mosul, which Iraqi government forces are attempting to take from IS.

An Iraqi military statement said: "Troops from the Ninth Armoured Division liberated Nimrud town completely and raised the Iraqi flag above its buildings after inflicting loss of life and equipment on the so-called Islamic State."

Image copyright APF
Image caption IS video showed militants dismantling and destroying ancient stonework
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ancient friezes were smashed

Meanwhile, human rights activists have accused Kurdish forces in Iraq of demolishing the houses of Sunni Arabs in at least 20 villages and towns in areas which had been under the control of IS.

According to Human Rights Watch, some Sunni Arab villages have been almost totally destroyed. It says this amounts to a pattern of apparently unlawful demolitions of houses and other buildings.

Buildings were marked with a X before being demolished by bulldozers, it says.

Image copyright HRW

A deputy minister in the Kurdish regional government, Dindar Zebari, denied there were policies or instructions given to destroy Sunni Arab homes.

Instead, Mr Zebari told the BBC, the Kurdish region was a safe haven for almost two million Sunni Arabs.

He added that some villagers in the areas which had been destroyed had supported or become members of IS, and the damage to homes was either the result of air strikes or bombs placed in the villages as the militants retreated.


Profile of Nimrud

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many Nimrud artefacts are now housed overseas - including these ivory pieces at the British Museum
  • Ancient Assyrian city on the River Tigris
  • Capital of Assyria for about 150 years
  • First excavations in modern times undertaken by Europeans starting in the 1840s
  • Treasures unearthed included sections of royal palaces, individual statues and smaller artefacts
  • Investigations stopped for decades but in 1949 Sir Max Mallowan (husband of writer Agatha Christie) began fresh excavations
  • Extensive photographic record of remaining treasures made in the 1970s

The unrivalled riches of Nimrud

Image copyright PA
Image caption Remarkable bas-reliefs, ivories and sculptures have been discovered in Nimrud
Image copyright AP
Image caption Some Nimrud artefacts had been moved - such as these statues now housed in Baghdad