BAGHDAD — Islamic State militants have provoked a global outcry by attacking ancient monuments with jackhammers and bulldozers. But they also have been quietly selling off smaller antiquities from Iraq and Syria, earning millions of dollars in an increasingly organized pillaging of national treasures, according to officials and experts.
The Islamic State has defended its destruction of cultural artifacts by saying they are idolatrous and represent pre-Islamic cultures. Behind the scenes, though, the group’s looting has become so systematic that the Islamic State has incorporated the practice into the structure of its self-
declared caliphate, granting licenses for digging at historic sites through a department of “precious resources.”
The growing trade reflects how Islamic State fighters have entrenched themselves since seizing the Iraqi city of Mosul a year ago Wednesday, in a dramatic expansion of the territory they control in this country and neighboring Syria.