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Saudi Arabia Seeks to Protect Mecca after ISIS Destroys Iraqi Religious Sites - Reports

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Saudi Arabia is seeking help from Pakistan and Egypt to protect its borders and religious sites from attacks by the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the International Business Times reported.

MOSCOW, August 4 (RIA Novosti) - Saudi Arabia is seeking help from Pakistan and Egypt to protect its borders and religious sites from attacks by the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the International Business Times reported.

"The kingdom is calling in favors from Egypt and Pakistan. No one is certain what ISIS has planned, but it's clear a group like this will target Mecca if it can. We expect them to run out of steam, but no one is taking any chances," the International Business Times wrote Sunday citing an adviser to the Saudi government.

The jihadist group started a large-scale offensive against Iraq’s Shiite government led by Nouri Maliki in June, aiming to seize Baghdad.

Militants have destroyed several prominent religious sites in the Iraqi city of Mosul, some 400 kilometers (nearly 250 miles) north of Baghdad, over the past weeks. The group defended their actions by saying, "The demolition of structures erected above graves is a matter of great religious clarity," according to Agence France-Presse.

Among the levelled sites were some of the main mosques, the Nabi Yunus shrine (Tomb of Jonah) and a shrine to The Prophet Seth. Eleven sites of Christian worship have been destroyed, including the Chaldean archdiocese, as well as the Diyala Province Library, where approximately 1,500 books were burnt.

About 4,000 cultural heritage sites in Iraq are under immediate threat of being lost, as the ongoing conflict between the Islamic State and local religious groups leaves them open to looting, said Alex Nagel, a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

On July 16, an official Iraqi delegation asked UNESCO for immediate help. On July 17, UNESCO held a consultation with Iraqi and international experts and agreed on an Emergency Response Action Plan to preserve Iraq’s cultural heritage.

With Syrian and Jordanian borders under strong Islamic State control, Saudi Arabia is afraid its southern border may become the group's next target, according to the International Business Times.

Islamic State Sunni militants proclaimed their group, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), a “caliphate” and changed the group’s name to the Islamic State (IS) on June 29, after weeks of fighting in Iraq and Syria and the seizure of vast territories in the two countries.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has claimed global religious authority over all Muslims. The organization was involved in the civil war in Syria, fighting against the government of President Bashar Assad.

The jihadist group has been added to terrorist organization lists by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations. The Islamic State has been accused of multiple killings, kidnappings and torturing.

Tags:
Daesh, Iraq, Islamists, Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, religion, UNESCO, Nouri al-Maliki, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia
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