UNESCO chief Irina Bokova on Sunday slammed the "barbaric" destruction of Iraq's cultural heritage, as jihadists from the Islamic State group destroy age-old sites in areas they control.
Iraq has "thousands of temples, of buildings, of archaeological sites, of objects, that represent a treasure for (all) humanity," Bokova said during a visit to Baghdad.
"We cannot agree that this treasure, that this legacy of human civilisation, is being destroyed in the most barbaric matter," she said.
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"We have to act, we don't have time to lose, because extremists are trying to erase the identity, because they know that if there is no identity, there is no memory, there is no history, and we think this is appalling and this is not acceptable."
The Islamic State jihadist group spearheaded a sweeping militant offensive that has overrun much of the country, and has proceeded to destroy sites it considers idolatrous or heretical.
The extremist group has destroyed shrines, churches and precious manuscripts in Mosul, Tikrit and other areas of Iraq it controls and excavated sites to sell objects abroad, in what Bokova has previously described as "cultural cleansing".