UN chief outraged by destruction of Iraq’s cultural heritage

United Nations: UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has said that he “is outraged by the continuing destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq” by the Islamic State (IS), and urgently called on the “international community to swiftly put a stop to such heinous terrorist activity”.

The secretary-general is outraged by the continued destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq by the IS amid reports of the razing of the ancient city of Hatra, a Unesco World Heritage Site in the north of the country, Ban’s spokesman said a statement issued here on Sunday night, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The secretary-general reiterates that the deliberate destruction of our common cultural heritage constitutes a war crime and that the perpetrators must be held to account,” the statement said.

“The secretary-general urgently calls on the international community to swiftly put a stop to such heinous terrorist activity and to counter the illicit traffic in cultural artifacts,” as demanded by relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the statement said.

The Unesco also condemned the destruction of the ancient city and said that it showed the “contempt” that the IS has for the history and heritage of the Arab people.

IS militants, who control large areas of Iraq and Syria, have destroyed ruins at the ancient city of Hatra and the extent of the damage remained unclear, reports said.

Hatra was set up in the days of the Parthian empire more than 2,000 years ago.

The militants recently bulldozed ruins at the Assyrian city of Nimrud and destroyed museum artefacts in Mosul in north Iraq as IS describes shrines and statues as “false idols” that have to be smashed.

The UN Security Council has adopted relevant resolutions to call for strengthened international efforts to fight the IS.

Iraq is facing an insurgency by the IS Sunni radical group, which has forced thousands of people mainly from minority communities to flee their homes.

The group, whose fighters had seized vast swathes of territory in northern Iraq since June 2014 and announced the establishment of a “caliphate” in areas under its control in Syria and Iraq, has released videos showing the beheadings of at least two American journalists and a British aid worker.