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Iraqi libraries ransacked

| Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, 7:03 p.m.

BAGHDAD — When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria invaded the Central Library of Mosul last month, it was on a mission to destroy a familiar enemy: other people's ideas.

Residents say the terrorists smashed the locks that had protected the biggest repository of learning in the northern Iraq town, and loaded about 2,000 books — including children's stories, poetry, philosophy and tomes on sports, health, culture and science — into six pickups. They left only Islamic texts.

The rest?

“These books promote infidelity and call for disobeying Allah. So they will be burned,” a bearded jihadi in traditional Afghani two-piece clothing told residents, according to one man living nearby who spoke to The Associated Press. The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation, said the ISIS official made his impromptu address as others stuffed books into empty flour bags.

Mosul, the biggest city in ISIS's self-declared caliphate, boasts a relatively educated, diverse population that seeks to preserve its heritage sites and libraries.

In the chaos that followed the invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein, residents near the Central Library hid some of its centuries-old manuscripts in their homes to prevent their theft or destruction by looters.

But this time, ISIS has made the penalty for such actions death. Presumed destroyed are the Central Library's collection of Iraqi newspapers dating to the early 20th century, maps and books from the Ottoman Empire and book collections contributed by about 100 of Mosul's establishment families.

Days after the Central Library's ransacking, the terrorists broke into University of Mosul's library. They made a bonfire out of hundreds of books on science and culture, destroying them in front of students.

A University of Mosul history professor, who was too afraid to be named, reported damage to other libraries, including the archives of a Sunni Muslim library, the library of the 265-year-old Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers and the Mosul Museum Library with works dating back to 5000 BC.

The jihadists appeared determined to “change the face of this city ... by erasing its iconic buildings and history,” the professor said.

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