ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi security forces discovered large amounts of explosives beneath the ancient citadel in Tal Afar on Wednesday, preventing a plan by the Islamic State (IS) to destroy it, according to a military statement.
“Forces from the Nineveh Operation Command found four barrels filled with the highly explosive C4 material, 10 explosive belts, and 100 mortar shells placed under Tal Afar Citadel in Nineveh [province],” the force's media office spokesperson Yehia Rasool told the press.
“Three other explosive barrels, two rockets and 11 landmines were also found on site,” he said, specifying that the explosives found were part of a plot to completely destroy the citadel.
IS members regularly destroyed and pillaged archeological sites located in territory it gained control of in Iraq and Syria, starting in 2014, including such important sites as Nimrud, Palmyra, and the shrine of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul. Periodically, the jihadi group would release footage online of members smashing ancient treasures and blowing up structures that had stood thousands of years.
The extremist views of IS include those which see art and buildings celebrating cultures other than their own as blasphemous. Aside from focusing on relics of civilizations past, they have also expressed delight on social media at destroying or defacing sites holy to Shia Muslims, Ezidis, and Christians.
Following the 2003 Iraq War, the citadel housed local government offices and was later used as a base by American forces in 2005.
After taking over the town of Tal Afar in June 2014, IS fighters used the Tal Afar citadel as a prison for women and girls who were to be forcibly married to their members. In December of that year, they blew up the city's northern and western walls, causing extensive damage.