The Islamic State is continuing its push forward in Libya, as the terrorist group has taken over control of the town of Sabratha. This historic town is an official UNESCO World Heritage site, and it is the location of one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world.
When ISIS militants moved into the center of the ancient town, the locals originally thought that the terrorist group was engaging in a retaliatory raid following the arrest of two of their men. However, these presumptions were dashed after the terrorists established checkpoints around the town and claimed it to be their own.
Sabratha is located roughly 50 miles west from the Libyan capital city of Tripoli. The capital city is also facing threats from ISIS, as the terrorist group is advancing in Libya with little resistance. The Islamic State appears determined to gain control of as much of the North African country as possible. It is estimated that there are more than 3,000 ISIS fighters in Libya.
Perhaps most concerning about the ISIS takeover of Sabratha is the potential for damage to irreplaceable ruins. If the ruins in Sabratha were to be destroyed by ISIS, it would be a major cultural disaster, much like the destruction of Palmyra in Syria. Last October, the terrorist organization destroyed the Arch of Triumph in the 2,000 year old Roman city of Palmyra.
ISIS also caused major outrage when it destroyed the UNESCO site at Nimrud, Iraq. The group is well-known for destroying such sites so that it can loot the treasures and sell them on the black market to raise funds.
Sabratha was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1982. So far, there have been no reports of any specific acts of destruction by ISIS in Sabratha. But given the group’s desperate need for capital, it most likely won’t be long before the terrorists start raiding the helpless town for priceless artifacts. Unless ISIS is stopped quickly, it appears that many of the one-of-a-kind treasures of the Middle East will either be destroyed or sold in the name of terrorism.