Iraqi troops have recaptured the Mosul Museum from ISIS. The institution was made infamous in 2015 thanks to footage of Islamic militants smashing priceless artifacts and exhibits. Government forces also retook the main government building complex and the central bank branch in northern city of the embattled country.
According to Agence France Presse, Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat confirmed in a statement that his men “recaptured the archeological museum,” adding that ISIS “stole the artifacts and completely destroyed the museum.”
Video footage of ISIS militants destroying the museum’s collection of 3,000-year-old Assyrian sculptures and other artifacts using power tools, hammers, and pickaxes in 2015 shocked the world. The destruction was part of the Islamic State’s effort to systematically obliterate the region’s cultural heritage. At the time, UNESCO chief Irina Bokova compared the destruction to the “cultural cleansing” of Iraq.
According to Islamic State’s extremist ideology, art is condemned as idolatry which people worship in place of God. However, this belief has not stopped ISIS from looting and selling cultural artifacts on the black market to fund their campaign of terror. The looting of archaeological sites in Palmyra, Syria; and Nineveh, Iraq, have been an important source of income for the group.
Reuters also reported that the recovered government buildings were completely destroyed, and are unusable. But the overnight offensive represents an important tactical and symbolic victory in the fight against the self-styled Islamic State. The breakthrough follows the Syrian government’s retaking of Palmyra last week.
In Mosul, troops also seized the Islamic State’s main courthouse, where it handed down brutal rulings which included stoning, throwing people off rooftops, and cutting off hands.
Lieutenant Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammadawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi government troops in Mosul, told Reuters that the Iraqi army killed “tens from Daesh” over the course of the assault, which lasted over an hour.
Reports suggest that the city will be completely retaken by the US-led coalition of an estimated 100,000 strong force of Iraqi troops, Kurdish peshmergas, and Iranian-trained Shi’ite paramilitary groups. In contrast, ISIS is thought to have 6,000 fighters in the city.
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