Islamic State (ISIS) militants have threatened to destroy the walls of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, reports Assyrian website Ankawa.com. According to residents of the Bab Nergal area of Mosul, Iraq, militants told them they would destroy the walls if the Iraqi army attacks.
The Christian Assyrian minority group has suffered greatly at the hands of ISIS invaders. They consider themselves the descendents of the once-great Empire, of which Nineveh was the capital. At one time, Nineveh was the largest city in the world, with a population of 150,000 in 700 BCE. Although the city itself is now in ruins, it is surrounded by a 7.5 mile brick rampart, most of which remains intact.
ISIS has been aggressively wiping out the Christian presence in Mosul, where Assyrians are the only indigenous people. Among their acts of destruction and desecration have been the demolition of the Tomb of Jonah the Prophet and the black-market sale of Christian artefacts. Adherents have been tortured and killed, with churches reportedly being used as torture chambers.
The Assyrian International News Agency reported that in the last month ISIS has seized the content of the cultural museum in Mosul as well as destroyed Assyrian monuments in the city, which ISIS claims “distort Islam.”
According to the news agency, Assyrians have a history in Iraq dating back to 4750 BCE, and in 2003 numbered some 1.5 million. Following the US war on Saddam Hussein, that number has dwindled to a mere 500,000. Some 200,000 were forced to flee their homes when ISIS invaded Mosul in July. Many are living now as refugees in the Dohuk and Arbel regions.
The Daily Mail reported that Iraqi Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi stressed the importance of Mosul when he vowed the country would retake areas captured by ISIS in Iraq’s northern provinces.
“We will liberate it with the hard efforts of our armed forces, volunteers and with the aid of our allies,” he said.