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Xtian family in ancient Iraqi city of Nineveh prepare to defend 2,700 year-old tomb of Jewish prophet, as ISIS armies advance to just 10 miles away

  • Asir Salaam Shajaa says grandfather was tasked with defending monument
  • The duty has passed down through generations but now looks perilous
  • Ancient Nineveh stood in what is now the northern Iraqi town of Al Qosh
  • ISIS recently captured nearby Ramadi in hugely significant territorial battle

A Christian family in the ancient city of Nineveh is preparing to defend the 2,700 year-old tomb of a Jewish prophet as ISIS advance to within 10 miles.

Asir Salaam Shajaa claims his grandfather was tasked with watching over the monument to the prophet Nahum, which is in the northern Iraqi town of Al Qosh, when Jewish people left the region for good.

His family had promised the Jewish residents more than 60 years ago that they would preserve the Hebrew site but the job is looking increasingly perilous as ISIS’s murderous troops close in.

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Asir Salaam Shajaa, an Assyrian Christian, told The Christian Post: ‘When the last Jewish people in Al Qosh left, they asked my grandfather to watch over the tomb, to keep it safe. I don’t know much more than that.

‘Nahum is not our prophet, but he is a prophet, so we must respect that. He’s a prophet, it is simple.

‘I’m not sure how long my family will continue to stay in Iraq, we want to leave, most of the Christians want to leave. My brother says he will stay though, if my family gets to leave Iraq my brother and his children will look after the tomb. It will stay in the family, God willing.’

Al Qosh, the city built over the ancient Nineveh, is a treasure trove of history, containing both the early origins of Christianity and the Assyrian empire, along with its Hebrew heritage.

Nahum the prophet is known for predicting the fall of Nineveh in the seventh century BC, and his remains are believed to be kept at the tomb of ‘Nahum the Elkoshite’ in the city.

Mr Shajaa says the last two generations of his family have been taking care of the tomb, located in one of the few synagogues still standing in Iraq.

The Jewish people were forced to flee in the early 1950s after government policies sought to purge Iraq from their presence.

Mr Shajaa said he’s confident that ISIS will not conquer the city, despite its recent conquests of other Iraqi towns.

Nineveh was once the largest city in the world, with a population of as many as 150,000 people in 700BC. Although it now lies ruins, it is still surrounded by a mostly intact 7.5-mile brick rampart.

In January ISIS threatened to destroy the walls of the ancient capital city. Since rising to power the group has vandalised and stolen countless artifacts.

A jihadi was notoriously pictured using a power tool to destroy a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity at the Nineveh Museum in Mosul in February

And following their capture of Palmyra last Thursday, ISIS militants destroyed a famous statue of a lion which dated back to the first century AD.


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