Islamic State militants have destroyed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in northern Iraq in a shocking attempt to erase the region's history.
"ISIS continues to defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity. They violated the ancient city of Nimrud and bulldozed its ancient ruins," Iraq's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said in a statement released on Friday, according to the AFP.
The government added that in addition to leveling the city, the terrorist group looted priceless items dating back 13 centuries B.C., including statues and other historic objects.
"Islamic State members came to the Nimrud archaeological city and looted the valuables in it and then they proceeded to level the site to the ground," a tribal source from the area told Reuters.
"There used to be statues and walls as well as a castle that Islamic State has destroyed completely."
According to the AFP, Nimrud, which is located just south of Mosul, was established as the capital of the Assyrian Empire by King Ashurnasirpal II who reigned between 883 and 859 BC. Nimrud was known as the "jewel" of the Assyrian era, and many of the castle's priceless statues, jewels, and carvings have been displayed in museums around the world.
"I'm really devastated. But it was just a matter of time, now we're waiting for the video. It's sad," Abdulamir Hamdani, an Iraqi archaeologist from Stony Brook University in New York, said of the propaganda film of the destruction that ISIS will likely soon release.
"Their plan is to destroy Iraqi heritage, one site at a time," he added, according to the AFP.
This is not the first time ISIS has vandalized valuable pieces of Iraq's history. Earlier this year, the group, which currently controls large portions of northern and western Iraq, destroyed and plundered dozens of historic, religious and heritage sites, including Christian churches and Sunni shrines.
Last week, ISIS released a video showing them destroying Assyrian era statues and sculptures in Mosul, formerly home to thousands of Christians.
In July, the insurgents seized a fourth-century Syrian monastery, and are faulted for destroying a tomb believed to be that of biblical prophet Jonah.
While the jihadist group has justified the destruction by claiming the religious statues, manuscripts and relics are "idolatrous," experts believe the militants traffic the items to fund their military and destroy only those pieces that are too large to be smuggled.
"ISIS has a stated goal to wipe out Christianity," Jay Sekulow, author of "The Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can't Ignore," explained. "This why they are crucifying Christians -- including children -- destroying churches and selling artifacts. The fact is, this group will stop at nothing to raise funds for its terrorist mission."
Iraqi archaeologist Dr Lamia al-Gailani also mourned that ISIS is will not stop until it has completely erased Iraq's history.
"I wish it was a nightmare and I could wake up. I can't understand their reasons," she told the BBC.
Sadly, Stuart Gibson, a UNESCO expert on museums, said there is little the international community can do to stop the jihadist group.
"We have...traditionally called upon the peoples of the region to recognize the irreplaceable value and cultural necessity in protecting their cultural heritage," he said.
"Unfortunately today the people in the region are exhausted and terrified. The remainder of us can only stand on the outside looking on in absolute despair."