BAGHDAD – A slick new video released Saturday purports to show Iraq’s ancient city of Hatra, immortalized in the 1973 horror classic “The Exorcist,” under attack by ISIS jihadists wielding sledgehammers and rifles.
Hatra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, withstood Roman invaders twice in the 2nd Century, but the archeological site may be no match against 21st Century Islamic extremists bent on destroying “false idols” that violate its strict interpretation of Islamic Law.
The ISIS “Smashing Idols” video, shows a militant on a ladder using a sledgehammer to bang repeatedly on the back of one of the carved faces until it crashes to the ground and breaks into pieces. The video also shows a militant firing a Kalashnikov rifle at another artifact, while men chop away the bases of some of the larger wall sculptures.
One of the militants declares in Arabic they destroyed the site because it is "worshipped instead of God." The Islamic State group, which holds a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate, has been destroying ancient relics they say promote idolatry.
Authorities also believe that ISIS is also selling some ancient treasures on the black market to fund.
Local government officials told the AP last month the militant group had looted and destroyed several ancient sites, including the 3,000 year-old city of Nimrud, another UNESCO World Heritage site. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called the Nimrud attack "a war crime."
Another video released in February showed militants smashing artifacts in the Mosul Museum and in January, the group burned hundreds of books from the Mosul library and Mosul University, including many rare manuscripts. The majority of the artifacts destroyed in the Mosul Museum attack were from Hatra.
Hatra, located 68 miles southwest of Mosul, was a large fortified city during the Parthian Empire and capital of the first Arab kingdom.
The site is said to have withstood invasions by the Romans in A.D. 116 and A.D. 198 thanks to its high, thick walls reinforced by towers. The ancient trading center spanned 4 miles in circumference and was supported by more than 160 towers. At its heart are a series of temples with a grand temple at the center — a structure supported by columns that once rose to 100 feet.
In March, Iraqi officials said ISIS was bulldozing the 2,300-year-old city. They cited local residents for the information.
"The Exorcist,” starring a young Linda Blair, opens with scenes that feature the Hatra temple as the backdrop.
The video's release comes after the Iraqi government this week claimed victory against the Islamic State group in Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit. Tikrit is 80 miles north of Baghdad on the main highway to Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. Seizing Tikrit was key to an eventual campaign to retake Mosul — and the historic sites near it.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.