"Islamic State" militants have continued their path of destruction in Iraq by launching an attack on ancient remains in the 2,000-year-old city of Hatra. In Syria, militants have also been targeting Christian villages.
Hatra, which was classified as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO in 1987, is located about 110 kilometers (about 70 miles) south of the IS-stronghold of Mosul in Iraq's Nineveh province.
Having withstood an attack by the ancient Romans, the city's many artifacts are reported to have been damaged as IS continues its rampage of destroying shrines and statues which they consider to be false idols.
"This is a loss which cannot be compensated," Hamid al-Juburi, head of the Department of Antiquities at the University of Mosul, told the German press agency dpa.
Saturday's attacks came just days after IS launched a similar attack with bulldozers on the remains of the Assyrian city of Nimrud, south of Mosul. UNESCO condemned the actions as "cultural cleansing" and said they amounted to war crimes.
Last week, a video emerged online showing IS fighters smashing ancient statues with sledgehammers and drills in a museum in Mosul. Many of the artifacts were from the ancient city of Nimrud.
The video also showed the jihadists damaging a huge statue of a bull at the Nergal Gate into the ancient city of Nineveh.
Archaeologists have compared the assault on Iraq's cultural history to the Taliban's destruction of the Bamyan Buddhas in 2001.
On Friday, however, Iraqi soldiers and tribal militias reportedly drove out IS from two of the group's strategic towns in one day. The push was part of a large-scale offensive to retake the cities of Tikrit and later possibly continuing to Mosul.
Strategic attacks in Syria
Militants of the terrorist group also launched a string of attacks on predominantly Christian villages in northeastern Syria on Saturday.
IS kidnapped more than 220 Christians from the same area last month after overrunning several farming communities on the southern bank of the river.
The fighting Saturday was concentrated in villages on the northern bank of the river as the militants pressed to capture Tal Tamr, a strategic crossroads some 35 kilometers (20 miles) from the city of Hassakeh, which would give them the corridor to the eastern border to Iraq.
ksb/sms (Reuters, AP, dpa)