Iraqi forces retake ancient city of Hatra from ISIS

A photo taken in 2010 shows the city of Hatra. The city has been recaptured from ISIS control.
A photo taken in 2010 shows the city of Hatra. The city has been recaptured from ISIS control. PHOTO: AFP

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraqi pro-government forces announced on Wednesday (April 26) that they have recaptured the UNESCO-listed ancient city of Hatra from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

"Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) forces liberated the ancient city of Hatra... after fierce clashes with the enemy," said the Shiite-dominated paramilitary group.

Hatra, which lies in the desert southwest of Iraq's second city Mosul, includes a UNESCO world heritage site.

ISIS destroyed priceless objects in Hatra and at other archaeological sites after seizing swathes of Iraq and Syria in a lightning 2014 offensive.

The full extent of the harm to Hatra remains unclear.

Hatra, known as Al-Hadhr in Arabic, was established in the 3rd or 2nd century BC and became a religious and trading centre under the Parthian empire.

Its imposing fortifications helped it withstand sieges by the forces of two Roman emperors.

Hatra finally succumbed to Ardashir I, founder of the Sassanid dynasty but the city remained well-preserved over the centuries that followed.

The Hashed al-Shaabi launched a three-pronged offensive Tuesday to retake the nearby modern town of Hatra, the statement said.

Iraqi pro-government forces backed by a US-led international coalition have been fighting since October to oust ISIS from Mosul, its last major urban bastion in Iraq.

The Hashed al-Shaabi is an umbrella group for militias that mobilised to fight ISIS and were later integrated into Iraq's official defence apparatus.