BAGHDAD, March 9 (UPI) -- Iraq requested help to stop Islamic State militants from destroying ancient monuments, after reports of the bulldozing of 2,000-year-old city of Hatra.
The destruction of pre-Muslim artwork and monuments in Hatra, a United Nations World Heritage site, is under investigation by Iraqi authorities, Tourism and Antiquities Minister Adel al-Shershab said Sunday.
The incident would be the third in two weeks; last week, militants demolished statuary and other remnants in the former Assyrian capital of Nimrud. The prior week, Assyrian sculptures on display in a museum in Mosul were destroyed by rampaging IS members.
The incidents, all in the history-rich Ninevah province, occupied for nearly a year by IS, was globally condemned and a new source of anger and shame for Iraqis. The two earlier attacks were called war crimes by the United Nations, and the Iraqi antiquities museum said in the destruction at Nimrud, IS "continues to defy the will of the world."
"The international coalition, which pledged to protect Iraq, has to play a bigger role," said al-Shershab, adding the Hatra site is in open desert, making IS forces' bulldozers and other heavy equipment there "an easy target for coalition fighter jets. The international coalition did nothing...we do not know why."
U.S. officials, leading the aerial war against IS, said there was little it could do to stop the demolition of antiquities.
In an online statement, IS said it was targeting examples of relics it claimed promoted idolatry, a position rejected by the scholars at Cairo's Al Azhar Mosque, regarded as respected interpreters of Islamic law.