Pentagon: Islamic State destruction of Christian monastery an act of 'savagery'

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Jan. 21, 2016 at 7:18 AM
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MOSUL, Iraq, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- The destruction of the Christian monastery of St. Elijah in Iraq shows the fight against the Islamic State "really is a battle of savagery against decency," Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said.

Satellite images released Wednesday confirmed the militant group destroyed the monastery, one of the oldest Christian sites in Iraq that stood for more than 1,400 years near Mosul.

DigitalGlobe released satellite imagery of the site, which shows it was razed in late August or September 2014 shortly after the IS seized Mosul. The news was confirmed by The New York Times.

"Nothing can compensate the loss of such heritage," Yonadam Kanna, a Christian member of the Iraqi Parliament, told The Times, adding it was "one of the most historical" site's in the country and that its destruction proves the Islamic State is attempting to eliminate Iraq's Christian identity.

In addition to public executions and beheadings, the Islamic State -- also identified as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL -- has become notorious for destroying historic monuments that it considers abominations to its intepretation of Islam.

Historic sites destroyed by the Islamic State include the tomb of Jonah in Iraq and the ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria.

Warren told reporters Wednesday the Islamic State's destruction of St. Elijah's Monastery represents a pattern of savagery the group has established.

"This enemy has proven time and again its ruthlessness, its barbarity, its willingness to destroy everything from human life to civilian supporting infrastructure, to, you know, cultural artifacts, with absolute disregard for history, for humanity, or for anything that approaches decency," he said. "This really is a battle of savagery against decency."

St. Elijah's Monastery was partly damaged and was briefly turned into a garrison for the 101st Airborne Division after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The historic site remained within the U.S. military's headquarters in northern Iraq -- Forward Operating Base Marez -- from 2003 until 2011, when the U.S. Department of State oversaw preservation efforts.

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