ISIS Militants Blow Up Church In Iraq

A church in Iraq was blown up by Islamic State militants on Sunday, ARA News reports.

An Assyrian relief, displayed at the Iraqi national museum in Baghdad.Reuters

"Daesh [ISIS] jihadis detonated a number of explosive devices inside the church on Sunday afternoon," a human rights activist, Ghazi Shamoun, told the website.

He said the Barbara Fouq Attal Church in Karemlis, near Mosul, was "destroyed completely".

Karemlis is an Assyrian Christian-majority town on the Nineveh Plain. Its Christian population fled when ISIS overran the region in 2014, leaving churches and other religious buildings empty.

"The terrorist group has destroyed dozens of Assyrian churches and archeological sites in Nineveh in a bid to eliminate the historical identity of the area," Shamoun said.

Afram Yakoub, of the Assyrian Confederation of Europe, told Christian Today: "The destruction of the Assyrian church in the Nineveh plain is yet another crime against cultural heritage and an example of ongoing ethnic and religious cleansing the Assyrians are facing.

"Unfortunately Assyrians are still left on their own in the face of evil."

Yakoub crticised Western governments for not sending military aid to support the Assyrian force The Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU).

"The only way to stop further ethnic cleansing and destruction of churches and other heritage sites in northern Iraq is to empower Assyrians and Yazidis in every possible way," he said.

Looting and bulldozing ancient sites has become one of the hallmarks of ISIS' ruthless attempt to create its caliphate across Iraq and Syria.

The Assyrian city of Nimrud was looted and much of it bulldozed in March 2015 and ISIS militants blew up a 2,800-year-old temple in the city earlier this year.

Dr Nicholas Al-Jeloo, a lecturer in Syriac at the University of Melbourne, told Christian Today after the destruction of the Temple of Nabu that ISIS' targeting of ancient Assyrian sites was devastating for the community.

"If all their churches and the ancient sites belonging to their ancestors have been destroyed, then for these people the land no longer bears their identity, and this is a very profound thing," he said.

"People might say it's the world's heritage that is being destroyed, and that's true, but it's also the heritage of the locality and the people who identify with it and with having lived there for thousands of years. This is, in fact, contributing to the genocide against the Assyrians."

An ancient branch of Christianity, the Assyrian Church of the East has roots dating back to the 1st century AD. Assyrian Christians speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus, and have origins in ancient Mesopotamia – a territory which is now spread over modern day northern Iraq, north-east Syria and south-eastern Turkey.