Islamic State destroyed one of the oldest Christian sites in Iraq as part of its campaign against ancient sites in the country, according to satellite photographs published by the Associated Press and confirmed by Iraqi officials and historians.
The monastery of St Elijah, or Dair Mar Elia, stood for more than 1,400 years above a riverbed south of the city of Mosul, which Islamic State, also known as Isis, seized from Iraqi forces in June 2014. The satellite photographs showed that the monastery was razed in late August or September 2014, including the site’s square complex of partly ruined rooms and a largely intact sanctuary that dated from the 11th century.
Yonadam Kanna, a Christian member of parliament, said the destruction was further evidence of Islamic State’s goal of destroying Iraq’s Christian identity, calling the site “one of the most historical” in the country. “Nothing can compensate the loss of such heritage,” he said.
Isis has damaged or destroyed scores of historic sites and monuments as part of a nihilistic campaign to eradicate remnants of cultures it considers anathema to its extremist vision of Islam. They have included ancient ruins like Nineveh, Nimrud and the tomb of Jonah in Iraq; Palmyra in Syria; and medieval Islamic sites like the tombs of Yahya ibn al-Qasim and Ibn Hassan Aoun al-Din in Mosul.