After the invasion looters pillaged and burned the library during a three-day rampage, stealing hundreds of rare, centuries-old Islamic documents and texts, including a 16th century treatise by the ancient Islamic philosopher Ibn Sina. Military and national security records were torched, apparently to erase evidence, military officials said at the time. Fire, smoke and water damaged much of the remaining texts.
Now, more than four years later, Eskander and his staff of about 400 are still struggling to preserve the fragments of Iraq's ancient heritage.
An ethnic Kurd born in Baghdad, Eskander was among a close-knit group of Iraqi expatriates who streamed into Baghdad to help rebuild after the U.S. invasion. By then, thousands of antiquities had been looted from the National Museum and archaeological sites in a nation with 11 centuries of history.
"For the Iraqi people, there are few places more important than the archive," he said. "We need to keep it safe from the daily violence."
Elsewhere in Iraq, a car bomb struck a market in a Kurdish area in the northern city of Kirkuk this morning, killing at least eight people and wounding dozens, according to police there. The attack in Kirkuk, an oil-rich city that has seen a recent rise in ethnic tensions, occurred while the capital remained relatively calm under a driving ban aimed at preventing such attacks during a major Shiite pilgrimage.
Meantime, south of Baghdad this morning, the U.S. military said a helicopter was forced down, leaving two soldiers injured. The helicopter was en route to support a planned mission when it made the forced landing in Youssifiyah, according to the military here.
The cause was not immediately clear from initial ground reports but was being investigated, a military statement said. Two soldiers sustained nonlife-threatening injuries, according to the statement.