“The terrorist Daash (IS militant group) has stolen and destroyed the city of Hatra,” which dates back to 2,000 years and is located some 110 km southwest of Nineveh’s provincial capital city of Mosul, a statement by the tourism and antiquities ministry said, Xinhua reported.
Hatra is well known for its high walls full of inscriptions and watchtowers dotted around the fortified city, which includes temples and ruined walls, where Hellenistic and Roman architecture blends with Eastern decorative features.
The ancient city was placed on the Unesco World Heritage List in 1987, the first such site in Iraq.
The ministry blamed the international community for delaying support for Iraq that “encouraged terrorists to commit another crime of stealing and demolishing the remains of the city of Hatra”.
“This cowardly act has touched this time a legacy registered on the World Heritage List, and the world and international organisations should face such blatant assault on the human heritage,” the ministry said.
For the past decade of unrest following the 2003 US-led war, Hatra has been suffering from inadequate excavations and maintenance and few tourists have ventured into the historic site.
In a previous statement, the ministry had condemned the destruction of an archaeological site of ancient Nimrud city, which is located some 30 km southeast of Mosul.
It said the extremist militant group is defying the will of the world and the feelings of humanity by the new reckless crime when it razed the archaeological city of Nimrud and appropriated ancient sites dating back to 13th century BC.
Also on Friday, Unesco issued a press release denouncing the destruction of Nimrud, considering the act as a “war crime”.
Last week, the IS group released a video showing a group of militants armed with sledgehammers and jackhammers smashing large statues and unique artifacts from archaeological sites and the Nineveh provincial museum.
In the chaos following the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, the Iraqi national museum was also ransacked by looters. An estimated 15,000 priceless antiquities were lost and only about half of them have been recovered so far.
Chaos and fragile security during the post-invasion years left many historic sites in the hands of looters who carried out random excavations and stole tens of thousands of antiquities, usually causing irreversible damage.
Earlier, the IS extremists destroyed many old temples, shrines, churches and precious manuscripts in the city of Mosul and many other areas.