'Stop the looters destroying history'

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THE cultural treasures of Iraq — the birthplace of writing, codified law, mathematics, medicine and astronomy — are being obliterated as looters take advantage of the country’s bloody chaos.

Fourteen of the world’s leading archaeologists have written to the President and Prime Minister of the country demanding immediate action to stem the vandalism after seeing photographs of sites left pockmarked by enormous craters.

Among examples in the letter, seen yesterday by The Times, was a Babylonian sculpture of a lion dating from about 1,700 BC that lost its head because the terracotta shattered as looters tried to remove it.

Another was the destruction of the Ana Minaret on the Euphrates about 190 miles (310km) west of Baghdad, revered for a thousand years as a unique construction. It has been blown up by Islamic extremists apparently for fear that it would be used as an American observation post.

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