Islamist ISIS Terrorists Could Destroy Ancient City Ruins Used in 'The Exorcist'

Islamist ISIS Terrorists Could Destroy Ancient City Ruins Used in 'The Exorcist'

As the armies of terrorists aligned with the radical ISIS militants sweep across Iraq, fears are being raised that they might totally destroy the ruins of the ancient city that appeared in the movie The Exorcist.

The Hatra complex, Iraq’s archaeological gem, stands in the path of the radical Islamists and is situated in the territory they are claiming as part of their new Islamic state.

The archaeological site featured prominently in the opening of the 1973 classic fright film directed by William Friedkin.

Fears that the site could be destroyed are not empty. Several historical landmarks have already been destroyed in this terrorist action. Earlier this month a statue dedicated to the 19th century Iraqi musician and composer Othman al-Mousuli was destroyed when the terrorists took Mosul.

In another case, ISIS militants destroyed the tomb of Abbasid-era Arab poet Abu Tammam.

In addition to the above incidents, ISIS fighters also destroyed the tomb of Ibn al-Athir. Al-Athir was an Arab philosopher who traveled with the army of warrior sultan Salahuddin in the 12th century.

Probably settled at least by the 2nd century, Hatra is considered a prime example of a city from the Parthian Empire. It also figured prominently as an enemy to the Romans and as the site where the Iranians were repulsed in the Battle of Shahrazoor in 238. 

This isn’t the first time Islamists have threatened or destroyed Iraqi sites. Some may remember that in 2006 Islamist terrorists destroyed the al-Askari golden mosque in Samarra just north of Baghdad.

Iraq isn’t the only country having its cultural heritage erased by militants.

Sites in Syria have also been destroyed by Islamists in the civil war there. A long list exists of sites that have been damaged by fighting or destroyed by Islamists in that country.

In 2012 the grave stones of British soldiers who fell in battle during WWII were destroyed by Islamists in Benghazi, Libya.

Probably the most famous recent destruction of ancient ruins occurred in 2001 in nearby Afghanistan when Islamist Taliban terrorists destroyed the 17,000-year-old Bamiyan Buddhas.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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