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ISIS Destroys Oldest Christian Monastery In Iraq

The Islamic State group (ISIS) has reportedly destroyed Iraq's oldest Christian monastery, adding to the list of historical monuments demolished by the group.

St. Elijah's Monastery stood for 1,400 years just north of Mosul, according to The Associated Press.

"Bulldozers, heavy equipment, sledgehammers, possibly explosives turned those stone walls into this field of gray-white dust," imagery analyst Stephen Wood told AP. "They destroyed it completely."

Before it was was reduced to rubble, the building was 27,000 square feet and partially restored, missing most of its roof.

The monastery had in previous millennia held generations of monks who worshipped at its altar, and in recent years had seen use by U.S. troops as a place of worship.

"Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically leveled," the Rev. Paul Thabit Habib, a Catholic priest, said. "We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land."

The monastery is far from the first heritage site to be destroyed by ISIS. in August 2015, CNN reported on the extremist group's destruction of a nearly 2,000-year-old temple in the historic ruins of Palmyra, Syria. The United Nations cultural organization, UNESCO, said the destruction of the temple was a "war crime."

Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria's director-general of antiquities and museums, told CNN at the time that by blowing up the Palmyran temple, ISIS had "destroyed an incredibly important architectural structure. It is the first structure in the Palmyra complex to be destroyed, although they recently destroyed two Islamic shrines nearby.They said they would destroy the statues but not the structures themselves insidePalmyra. They lied."

St. Elijah's Monastery has now joined the more than 100 religious and historical sites to be looted and destroyed by the group, including churches, mosques, tombs and shrines, AP reports. Museums and libraries have been ransacked as well, with books burned and artwork either damaged or trafficked.

Jeffrey Whorton, a Roman Catholic Army chaplain who had celebrated Mass at the monastery's altar, expressed his grief at the destruction.

"Why we treat each other like this is beyond me," he told AP. "Elijah the prophet must be weeping."

Sources: AP via Yahoo News, CNN / Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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