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Islamic State Militants Bomb Famous Ancient Catholic Monastery in Iraq

Mar Behnam

Creative Commons

Mark Stricherz - published on 03/20/15

ISIS fighters ordered the monks to leave with only the shirts on their backs

Islamic State militants bombed an ancient Catholic monastery in Iraq, according to the International Business Times. The fighters released pictures of the tomb complex of Mar Behnam near Mosul being blown up. The monastery dates back to the 4th century and was built at the site where two 1st century martyrs, converts of St. Matthew, were buried.

Gianluca Mezzofiore reports 

A member of the Syriac clergy quoted the militants as saying to the monastery’s residents: "You have no place here any more, you have to leave immediately." The monks asked to be allowed to save some of the monastery’s relics but the IS militants refused, according to the BBC. They walked for several miles before being rescued by Kurdish fighters.

The latest incident comes after an IS-linked Twitter account posted pictures of what appears to be jihadists smashing crosses and defacing holy statues, Christian murals and paintings at St George
 Chaldean Catholic monastery near Mosul.

The monastery, located on the Ba’werah neighbourhood on a hill north of Mosul on the other side of the Tigris river, was founded by the Assyrian Church of the East in the 10th century but rebuilt as a seminary by the
Chaldean Catholic Church in 1846.

Earlier in March, IS militants reportedly
bulldozed the 2,000-year-old city of Hatra and the Nimrud 
archaeological site near Mosul.

On 26 February, the jihadist group published a video
showing militants destroying artifacts in a Mosul museum and at the Nergal Gate to ancient Nineveh.

The attack follows a threat that Islamic State troops gave to residents of the city last July, according to the BBC:

Local residents said monks at the Mar Behnam monastery were allowed to take only the clothes they were wearing.

The monastery, which dates from the 4th Century, is a major Christian landmark and a place of pilgrimage.

Christians have fled Mosul after the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) told them to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death.

Isis has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq and said last month it was creating an Islamic caliphate.

Mosul itself is now
said to be empty of Christians.

The Mar Behnam monastery is run by the Syriac Catholic Church and is near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, to the south-east of Mosul.

IraqIslamist MilitantsMosul
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