Iraqi forces recapture ancient city Nimrud MOSUL: Iraqi forces said on Sunday they had recaptured the site of an ancient Assyrian city blown up by the militant Islamic State group, as they battled the jihadists south of Mosul.
The troops pushed towards Nimrud last week as they pressed an offensive begun on Oct 17 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.
“The villages of Al-Nomaniyah and Al-Nimrud and the ruins of Nimrud were recaptured,” Staff Brigadier General Saad Ibrahim of the 9th Armoured Division said.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command had announced earlier in the day that the entire Nimrud area was retaken, but later said that this was incorrect. The village of Nimrud and the archaeological site have however been recaptured, the JOC said.
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 a 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 Hatra in the desert south of Mosul and Palmyra in neighbouring Syria.
IS says the ancient monuments are idols that violate the teachings of its extreme form of Sunni Islam, but it has still sold artefacts to fund its operations.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation welcomed the news of Nimrud’s recapture.
“We welcome the news that Nimrud, a Unesco world heritage site, is back under the control of the Iraqi government,” said spokesman George Papagiannis.
“We look forward to coordinating with the relevant authorities in Baghdad on providing support for any assessments that need to be done of the site, once the area has been stabilised.” The Iraqi offensive has seen federal forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters advance on Mosul from the east, south and north.