Iraq’s national museum has officially reopened after 12 years of painstaking efforts, during which close to a third of 15,000 pieces looted during the US-led invasion were recovered.
Haider al-Abbadi, Iraq’s prime minister, told Al Jazeera that Saturday’s opening was important especially after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group destroyed ancient statues in Mosul.
He pledged to protect the country’s heritage.
On Thursday, ISIL fighters who have occupied Mosul since June last year, released a video in which they smash ancient statues with sledgehammers in the city’s museum.
Fighters are also seen using a jackhammer to deface a colossal 40-tonne Assyrian winged bull in an archaeological park in Mosul.
The destruction led to global outrage, calls for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and fears over the fate of other major heritage sites in areas under ISIL control.
The Mosul destruction was the worst disaster to strike Iraq’s treasures since the national museum in Baghdad was looted in the chaos that followed the US-led toppling of Saddam Hussein.