Iraq's valuable treasures are being looted, stolen and destroyed by Islamic State

Thousands of artefacts and treasures have been stolen from Iraq since the 2003 invasion and the start of the Iraq war. Statues and treasure from the Akkadian era, which was between  2371BC and 2161BC, are among those that have disappeared. Much of it has been looted or destroyed by Islamic State. 

"15,000 artefacts have been stolen since the occupation of the country in 2003," said a member of the Iraqi judiciary, Judge Suhail Nijm. He added: "There are ongoing efforts to retrieve some of these artefacts in Italy, including 88 Akkadian tablets which have been in the University of Rome's possession since 2006."

Suhail said that there was continuing correspondence with Italy in an attempt to retrieve the pieces, according to Al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Islamic State militants have destroyed hundreds of priceless antiquities in IraqYoutube

Iraqi officials have accused US forces of stealing antiquities, in spite of regular video footage appearing online which shows jihadists destroying the region's irreplaceable cultural and relgious heritage.

In March militants "bulldozed" the renowned archaeological site of the ancient city of Nimrud in northern Iraq. There have also been videos of jihadists attacking a Mosul museum with sledgehammers, leading to global outrage.

In October, the FBI alerted art collectors and dealers to be "particularly careful" when trading in Near Eastern antiquities, warning that artefacts plundered by militants were now entering the marketplace.

Last year, Iraq's national museum in Baghdad re-opened after being shut for 12 years. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said this was to defy efforts "to destroy the heritage of mankind and Iraq's civilisation". There are believed to be thousands of sites rich in archaeological heritage still to be discovered in Iraq, covering the Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian civilisations.