Friday, August 10, 2007

Report: Fears for safety of National Archive after Iraqi troops commandeer, smash doors and windows

Above: The Iraqi National Library and Archive in June 2003. The library had been looted and burned in the chaos following the U.S. invasion.

Four years after being burned and looted, Iraq's National Library and Archive came under siege again, this time from armed Iraqi security forces that stormed the building two days ago, according to the library's director.

Saad Eskander, who has run the library since 2003, said a group of armed Iraqi troops rushed the archive at gunpoint, smashing windows and doors and threatening staff and library guards.

The director pleaded with the troops to refrain from harming the library's document collection, which includes some of the most historic documents in the Arab world.

The troops held positions in the building for two days before leaving late Thursday, according to Eskander, who said he now fears the archive will be targeted by extremists who routinely attack Iraqi forces here.

"The entire archive is in jeopardy," Eskander said today.

An Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman would not comment on the incident, but said it is not uncommon for American and Iraqi forces to temporarily commandeer houses and buildings for use as rest stops or lookout posts during military operations...

The soldiers positioned themselves on the roof of the library and dismantled the building's main gate and smashed doors and windows inside the main building, Eskander said. He's appealing for troops to keep the institution's books and archives out of the fight, warning that recent security moves have put one of the nation's most important cultural facilities at risk.

Read the rest at ABC News