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ISIS destroys several more sites in Mosul and Tal Afar

February 10, 2015

While there have been fewer reports of ISIS destroying sites in the past several weeks, partially due to the battlefield reverses suffered by the group in Kobani, Diyala Province, Baiji and elsewhere, a steady string of reports have come out of Mosul in the past few weeks concerning the destruction of various aspects of cultural heritage.

Book Burnings

The Associated Press reported based on sources inside Mosul that on January 31 that ISIS had confiscated over 2000 books deemed “un-Islamic” from the Mosul Central Library, the library of the University of Mosul, the library of the Mosul Museum, and the library of the Dominican order. The books were burned.

The Walls of Nineveh?

Towards the end of January, numerous unsourced reports surfaced that ISIS had destroyed the walls of ancient Nineveh. Most of the walls are unexcavated, so the reports likely referred to a famous reconstructed section which is not built directly on top of the ancient walls.

Fortunately, the reports were false and sources on the ground indicated that there was no evidence of any damage to the walls.

Churches Destroyed?

A number of reports have surfaced in Arab language media that ISIS has destroyed a number of Christian churches in Mosul. Rudaw reported on February 2 that a church called al-Tahira in Mosul was destroyed. Other sources reported that the church that was destroyed was Dominican or Syriac Orthodox.

No photographs or any other confirmation of these reports has surfaced. They remain unconfirmed.

Destruction in Tal Afar


Tal Afar citadel in 2007 (source).

In early January the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported based on information provided by the Iraqi government that ISIS fighters had blown up part of the medieval citadel in Tal Afar on December 31. According to other reports, ISIS previously used the citadel as a prison for several hundred women held captive while they awaited forced marriage to ISIS members.

Pictures surfaced in January which appear to show heavy damage to the walls of the citadel. The details of the pictures seem to match photographs of the citadel taken prior to its destruction and a reverse image search on Google Images shows the photos are indeed new. I believe they are genuine.

Tal Afar Citadel, c. January 5, 2015 showing heavy damage.

Tal Afar Citadel, January 2015 showing heavy damage.

A New Video

Reports began to surface in mid-January on Arab language media that ISIS had destroyed the al-Fatih and al-Ummawiya mosques in the Qasim Al-Khayat neighborhood of Mosul on the pretext that they contained graves. ISIS has previously demolished the Mausoleum of Imam Yahya ibn al-Qasim in the same neighborhood.

On February 2, a video was posted to showing the destruction of a number of sites around Mosul. The video began by showing the demolition of two mosques which are not identified by name in the video and have not been previously seen in ISIS videos. Their identity and location is unknown.

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The video then shows a figure from ISIS standing in front of what media reports have identified as the shrine of Imam al-Muhsin, talking about the destruction, followed by a small mausoleum built inside a graveyard being blown up:

Site1_2Site2Site2_2  Site1_5 Site1_4The video ends with a bulldozer demolishing the shrine of Imam al-Muhsin. The al-Naqib mosque can be seen in the background but it does not appear to have been damaged.

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