A few weeks ago, ISIS caused outrage when it posted videos online of militants smashing ancient Assyrian statues in a museum in northern Iraq.
But it appears that ISIS, known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, didn’t smash the real ones.
“They were copies. The originals are all here,” Baghdad’s museum director was quoted by Al-Arabiya TV as saying.
In the video, ISIS members are seen pushing over statues and taking power tools to them. They described the statues as “idols.”
“None of the artifacts destroyed in the video were originals,” Fawzye al-Mahdi, the head of Iraq’s antiquity department, told the broadcaster. She said the statues were modern copies that were created from plaster.
“The reason they crumble so easily is that they’re made of plaster. You can see iron bars inside,” Mark Altaweel of the Institute of Archaeology at University College, London, told the U.K.’s Channel 4.
Atheel Nuafi, who was the governor of Mosul, said there were some relics that were destroyed by ISIS.
“There were two items that were real and which the militants destroyed,” he said, according to the broadcaster. “One is a winged bull and the other was the God of Rozhan.”
Nuafi also said he believes ISIS stole at least seven items before they destroyed the museum.
ISIS took over Mosul in June 2014 following an offensive. Iraqi-led forces and Shiite militiamen are currently aiming to take the city back.
During its reign of terror, ISIS has destroyed a number of cultural sites, including the Mosque of the Prophet Yunus, the Mosque of Jerjis, and ancient Assyrian walls. In February, ISIS also burned the Mosul library as well as libraries that belong to the Dominican monastery and of a Catholic church.
On Monday, it was reported that Saddam Hussein’s tomb was destroyed by the militants. It’s unclear if ISIS or Iraqi-led security forces were responsible.
Poster-sized pictures of Saddam, which once covered the mausoleum, are now nowhere to be seen amid the mountains of concrete rubble. Instead, Shiite militia flags and photos of militia leaders mark the predominantly Sunni village.
“This is one of the areas where ISIS militants massed the most because Saddam’s grave is here,” said Captain Yasser Nu’ma, an official with the Shiite militias, formerly known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. “The ISIS militants’ set an ambush for us by planting bombs around” the tomb.
The extremist Islamic State group has controlled Tikrit since June, when it waged its lightning offensive that saw Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, come under their control. The Islamic State was helped in its conquest of northern Iraq by Saddam loyalists, including military veterans, who appealed to Sunnis who felt victimized by Baghdad’s Shiite-dominated government.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.