Ancient city of Nimrud falls to Iraqi forces as battle to retake Mosul from ISIL continues

AMMAN, Jordan — Iraqi ISIL captured , the site of an city on the banks of the Tigris, Sunday during the operation to from the jihadists.

“Troops from the Ninth Armoured Division liberated Nimrud town completely and raised the Iraqi flag above its buildings,” said a statement issued by Iraq’s Joint Operations Command.

Nimrud was seized by ISIL in its 2014 blitz across northern Iraq. The town, a cultural and archeological jewel in an area often referred to as the cradle of civilization, is of special significance to Iraqi Christians.

Modern-day Nimrud lies a kilometre west of the ruins of the old city, which was built around 1250 BC and became the capital of the Assyrian empire.

A.H. Layard, 1853
A.H. Layard, 1853"The Palaces at Nimrud Restored" as imagined by the city's first excavator, A.H. Layard.

Nimrud, which is mentioned in the Book of Genesis, blossomed in the ninth BC during the reign of the King Ashurnasirpal and grew rich in jewels, monuments and palaces.

Despite being repeatedly plundered by Western explorers from the mid-19th century, the city managed to hide some of its secrets. In 1988, archeologists at the site unearthed a collection of 613 precious stones, which were hailed as the most significant archeological discovery since Tutankhamen’s tomb.

After being damaged in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Nimrud was battered by ISIL militants in March 2015. Wielding drills, explosives and bulldozers, they set out to pulverize the city’s heritage and erase all religious symbolism deemed idolatrous.

Whatever may have survived ISIL’s 2015 attack is likely to have been further damaged in the latest fighting.

For the coalition of forces battling to oust ISIL from Mosul, the victory at Nimrud is tempered by a sense that the larger may not be over any time soon. After last week’s advance into Mosul proper, Iraqi forces have encountered increasingly fierce resistance, battling wave after wave of lethal car bombs.

“The only weapons they have left are car bombs and explosives,” Iraqi special forces Maj. .Gen Sami al-Aridi told AP. “There are so many civilian cars and any one of them could be a bomb,” he said.

Hospitals near Mosul report being “overwhelmed” by growing numbers of suffering gunshot wounds, burns and mutilations.

“People are to us with major trauma injuries, some with exhaustion, some caught in crossfire,” said one doctor near Mosul. “I’m seeing maybe a dozen children a day now, with gunshots, burns, shrapnel wounds,” he said.

In one case, an eight-year-old boy died after he was blown apart when he and a friend triggered an improvised explosive device left by ISIL. The friend was partially disembowelled but survived.

Another medic said a girl around the age of nine turned up on her own with burns over her entire body. “I was trying to keep her calm, she was in severe pain. She said that her family had been hit by the bomb and she’d watched her brother die,” he said.

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