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Education

Iraq recovers hundreds of rare books stolen by ISIS

By Khalid al-Taie

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Iraqi security forces seized hundreds of rare books in Rawa, western Anbar province, which had been stolen by 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' elements. [Photo courtesy of the Anah District Administration]

Iraqi forces have recovered hundreds of rare books that were stolen by "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) elements during the group's control of the city, Rawa's local administration in western Anbar province announced Wednesday (June 20th).

The books were found during a routine search of residential neighbourhoods, in an abandoned house in ​​Rawa’s old area, Rawa mayor Hussein Ali al-Akidi told Diyaruna.

Tips by local residents led to the discovery of another batch of books hidden in a house in the same area, he said.

The books, a total of 722, belong to the library of Anah district, which is adjacent to Rawa, he said.

"The books bear the library’s stamps and are considered valuable, as most of them are more than a century old," said al-Akidi.

They include "religious and historical books on Iraq’s history and heritage, as well as books about philosophy, economics, thought and culture", he said.

Rawa's administration set up a special team to recover the books and return them to the Anah district administration, and later to the library, he noted.

ISIS sought to eradicate culture

"The books’ discovery proves that ISIS has been involved in the theft of Iraq's historical and cultural assets," al-Akidi said.

The group has sought to profit from the smuggling and selling of these artefacts across the border, he added.

"[ISIS] does not care about books and their historical and scholarly value," he said, noting that the only culture the group embraces is that of "blood, extremism and the spread of chaos and destruction".

"Its elements have stolen and burned down libraries and centres of science and knowledge so that only their barbaric culture would prevail in the communities under their control," he said.

There may be other stolen valuables hidden by ISIS fighters in other houses in the city, which cannot be reached because of the large presence of explosives, according to al-Akidi.

After Rawa’s liberation on November 17th, more than 100 booby-trapped houses were defused, he said.

"But 32 houses are still booby-trapped, and experts have yet to deactivate the explosives found inside them because they are planted in a highly sophisticated way," he said.

"We do not know what else is hidden in these houses other than explosives," he said.

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