Sep 19, 2014

By Scott Walker

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The Islamic State extremists are not only creating a humanitarian and political crisis in Syria and Iraq. They are also creating a crisis for the region’s antiquities.

Temples, palaces, and burial sites stretching back five thousand years from a variety of civilizations are under the control of the militants, who are either destroying them or selling them off.

Antiquities officials in Iraq and Syria say an archaeological disaster is unfolding. Extremists are destroying some temples that don’t conform to their strict interpretation of Islam. Some are Muslim sites. In other cases, they are selling antiquities on the black market to raise money for their war.

US intelligence sources say Islamic State takes in three million dollars a day from a variety of sources, including the black market sale of oil and antiquities.

The United Nations cultural agency has adopted an emergency plan to prevent the stripping of the region’s cultural heritage. UNESCO is urging dealers and museums not to deal in artifacts from Iraq and Syria.


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