BAGHDAD, March 13 (UPI) -- The Islamic State has burned ancient manuscripts and sold historical artifacts on the black market, an Iraqi official told an archeological conference.
Qais Hussein Rashid of Iraq's Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, speaking at the Baghdad conference on the effects of IS on the country's antiquities, said that some sales of Iraqi artifacts on the international black market have been stopped. He added some artifacts of the country's Assyrian era, which can date back to 1900 B.C., have been sold, and 1,500 ancient manuscripts were burned.
He added that two important sites in Mosul, the shrines of Ibn Al-Atheer and the Prophet Yunus, were completely demolished by IS militants.
The mission of IS includes the destruction of religious artifacts pertinent to pre-Muslim times.
Tourism and Antiquities Minister Adel Shershab said archeological sites through Iraq have been destroyed, and asked "friendly countries to take a genuine stand to restore the stolen antiquities."
While the destruction has outraged the world, it can be regarded as a diversion from the sale of antiquities, which is helping fund IS activities, an American archeologist suggested.
"There are people in the world who know what this stuff is worth, and it is very clear that at least part of the destruction of the Iraqi museum in 2003, that part of that, was induced by people on the outside getting dealers on the inside to go in and try to get specific things," said McGuire Gibson of the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago. "There's archaeological work going on right now in Iraq, in places where it's relatively secure, work is going on. Whether or not it will be secure next week, we don't know, but we try to work when and where we can."
Edward Planch of the United Nations' UNESCO noted his organization is working with border agencies to recover artifacts seized at border checkpoints adjacent to Iraq and Syria. "The objective is to have these surrounding countries with us, aware of the traffics, of the kinds of objects going out, able to seize the pieces and keep them in a safe place," Planch told the Voice of America, which noted many of the artifacts in the vandalized Mosul museum were catalogued digitally, a factor which could aid in their recovery.