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The videos of self-styled ISIS militants destroying ancient artifacts in Iraq's museums and blowing up 3,000-year-old temples are chilling. Now one of Iraq's top antiquities officials says the destruction is a cover for an even more sinister activity – the systematic looting of Iraq's cultural heritage. According to Qais Hussein Rashid, head of Iraq's State Board for Antiquities and Heritage, that was just the final step in a deeper game.Since the infamous 2003 looting of the museum, reports have emerged of widespread plundering of archaeological sites, especially in the south. U.S. investigators at the time said Al-Qaeda was funding its activities with illicit antiquities sales.Assyria's ancient core almost exactly covers the ISIS-controlled area.Iraq has sent lists to the International Council of Museums, the U.N. and Interpol detailing all the artifacts that might have been looted from the museum in Mosul, overrun by ISIS last June.A number of experts point out that most sites in Iraq have not been completely excavated.
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