Islamic State (Isis) militants have allegedly blown up parts of the ancient monastery of Mar Behnam near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, south-east of Mosul, according to pictures from IS media shared on twitter and a Kurdish media report.Does that mean that the manuscripts themselves are now lost? I hope not. The expulsion of the monks from this monastery was noted here and here last July.
The photos, released by IS members, show the 4th-century monastery's tomb complex of Mar (Saint) Behnam and Mart (Saint) Sarah reduced to rubble.
Dr Nicholas al-Jeloo, an expert on Assyrian monasteries in Iraq from the University of Melbourne, visited the monastery, previously run by the Syriac Catholic Church, in January 2010 and confirmed the authenticity of the pictures to IBTimes UK.
The monastery is known for its carvings and features, including "very intricate inscriptions in Syriac, in Armenian and in Uygur, a Turkic language from Western China" said Al-Jeloo.
"The place is a major site of pilgrimage, at the very origins of Christianity in the region, and it links us to our ancient Assyrian heritage - being only a stone's throw from the ruins of Nimrud, also destroyed by Isis. The only way I could describe it is as a work of art. It was one of the most richly carved monastery complexes in northern Mesopotamia up until today," he said.
The monastery also had a huge collection of manuscripts dating back centuries. "Luckily, all of them have been digitised," he said.
Cross-file under "Syriac Watch." More on recent militant Islamist attacks on the past here and links.