Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have bulldozed the ancient city of Hatra, Iraqi officials say.

In a statement posted on its website on Saturday, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities quoted media outlets about the "looting and destruction of the ruins of the ancient city of Hatra."

Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said ISIL fighters used bulldozers to go into the site.

"It's an absolutely devastating attack," she said. "These are the remnants of the world's civilisation. ISIL has made clear that it is going to demolish whatever it can, that does not correspond to its view of the world."

Iraqis mourn destruction of ancient Assyrian statues

The world heritage site also known as Al-Hadr, is near Mosul, and is the third ancient site destroyed by ISIL in recent weeks.

Built around the 3rd or the 2nd century BC, the ancient city withstood invasions by the Romans because of its thick walls reinforced by towers.

The site was made famous by the Hollywood horror film The Exorcist.

Last Thursday, ISIL fighters also bulldozed the 3,000-year-old Assyrian city of Nimrud.

In February, the same armed group also destroyed 7th century stone statues from Nineveh inside a museum in Mosul.

Unlike the Assyrian heritage sites in Nineveh and Nimrud, the ruins of Hatra feature a combination of Graeco-Roman and eastern influences, our correspondent said.  

Iraqi forces advance

The news about the destruction in Hatra came as Iraqi government troops and allied tribal fighters advanced into ISIL territories elsewhere.

On Saturday, US military announced that Iraqi forces retook the town of Al-Baghdadi, seizing both the police station and three Euphrates River bridges.

Security forces and tribal fighters from the Anbar region were reportedly involved in the operation, but US ground forces were not directly employed in the battle, the statement said.

"The coalition supported the operation with surveillance assets and advise and assist teams" attached to Iraqi headquarters units, it said.

Since February 22, the US-led coalition, which is conducting air strikes in Iraq and Syria against ISIL targets, said it had ordered 26 air strikes around the town.

ISIL took control of Al-Baghdadi in February, posing a threat to the nearby Ayn al-Asad air base where US forces train their Iraqi counterparts.

Source: Al Jazeera