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UNESCO demands crisis meet over Iraq heritage destruction

Islamic State militants raided Mosul Museum with baseball bats, smashing up rare artefacts
An IS militant pushes over a large statue from the UNESCO world Heritage site of Hatra (AFP)

The head of the United Nations' cultural agency UNESCO on Thursday said she was “deeply shocked” and called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, a day after video appeared online of Islamic State militants destroying hordes of ancient artefacts in Iraq.

"This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy - this is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq," UNESCO chief Irina Bokova said in a statement.

"This is why I have immediately seized the President of the Security Council to ask him to convene an emergency meeting of the Security Council on the protection of Iraq's cultural heritage as an integral element for the country’s security.”

In the video, released online, militants are seen smashing up large statues from the UNESCO world heritage site of Hatra, as well as unique artefacts from the archaeological sites of the governorate of Ninewah in north-west Iraq that have been destroyed or defaced in the Mosul Museum.

Archaeologists and heritage experts have described the destruction as a catastrophe and compared it with the 2001 dynamiting by the Taliban of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.

“The systematic destruction of iconic components of Iraq’s rich and diverse heritage that we have been witnessing over the past months is intolerable and it must stop immediately,” said Bokova, while adding that the destruction was a violation of the UN Security Council's resolution 2199.

It was adopted earlier this month in a bid to curb trafficking of looted antiquities from Iraq and Syria, which is considered a key source of funding for the militant group.

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