Iraqi forces yesterday  recaptured the site of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud blown up by Islamic State  as they battled the jihadists south of Mosul. The troops pushed towards Nimrud last week as they pressed an offensive which began on October 16 to recapture Iraqi's second city, which the jihadists seized along with other large areas of Iraq and Syria in mid - 2014.

A Kurdish - Arab alliance is pursuing a twin offensive against the other major city still under Islamic State control Raqqa in Syria and a US led coalition is backing both assaults with airstrikes.

Nimrud was one of the great centres of the ancient Middle East founded in the 13 th century BC, it became the capital of The Assyrian empire whose rulers built vast palaces and monuments that have drawn archaeologists to the region for more than 150 years. In April of last year Islamic State posted videos on the internet of it's fighters smashing monuments before planting explosives around the site and blowing it up. It was part of a campaign of destruction against heritage sites under jihadists control that also took Hatra, in the desert to the south of Mosul and Palmyra in neighbouring Syria.

Islamic State says the ancient monuments are idols that violate the teachings of it's extreme form of Sunni Islam.The UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation welcomed the news of Nimrods recapture. With the relevant support from authorities in Baghdad future assessments that need to be done at the archaeological sites will be conducted once the area has been stabilised.

Published by Julian Groom