It was once a capital city and a landmark in Iraqi history, but now Nimrud lies in ruins after relics were destroyed by ISIS.
The ancient landmark, less than 20 miles south of war-torn Mosul, has been taken from the terror group by the Iraqi army.
But pictures from the site reveal the damage inflicted by the terror group, with once magnificent monuments reduced to rubble.
Statues lie shattered, a reconstructed palace is wrecked and the remains of a ziggurat – once one of the tallest structures left from the ancient world at some 50 metres high – has been reduced to a fraction of its height.
The city, which was founded in the 13th century and became the capital of the Assyrian empire, was recaptured on Sunday as part of the massive operation to retake Mosul, the last ISIS-held city in the country.
Jihadists overran Nimrud along with swathes of other territory in 2014.
In April last year, ISIS released a video of its fighters destroying monuments in the city before planting explosives around the site and blowing it up.
In the video, militants with sledgehammers and power tools broke artefacts before rigging the site with large barrels of what appeared to be explosives.
ISIS said it attacked Nimrud as well as other ancient sites, including Syria’s Palmyra and Iraq’s Hatra, to eliminate idols that are forbidden by its extreme interpretation of Islam.
But that has not stopped ISIS from looting and selling allegedly forbidden artefacts to fund its operations.
UNESCO has condemned the destruction of Nimrud as a war crime.
Militia commander Ali al-Bayati said after the city was recaptured: ‘When you came here before, you could imagine the life as it used to be. Now there is nothing.’
And Bayati, whose native village is just 500 metres away from Nimrud, continued: ‘One hundred percent has been destroyed. Losing Nimrud is more painful to me than even losing my own house.’
‘They want to make a new picture of Iraq – with nothing before Daesh,’ Bayati said, adding he thought ISIS ‘destroyed this place because they wanted to destroy Iraq – the new Iraq and old Iraq’.
Most of Nimrud’s priceless artefacts were moved long ago to museums in Mosul, Baghdad, Paris, London and elsewhere, but giant ‘lamassu’ statues – winged bulls with human heads – and reliefs were still on site.
Now it will take experts to carry out a full evaluation of the damage IS has wrought at Nimrud.
But it may be some time before they can get there: the jihadists that Iraqi forces are fighting to drive back are still just a few miles away, and occasional explosions can be heard in the distance.
The site also still needs to be fully investigated and cleared by security forces of any hidden dangers ISIS may have left behind.
‘There are many (bombs) and booby traps suspected,’ said Lieutenant Wissam Hamza, a member of an army explosives disposal team.
‘So we want to find them and clear the area – then after that it can be called safe.’
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SOURCE: Mail Online