An Isis fighter in Mosul, Iraq. (Reuters)
An Isis fighter in Mosul, Iraq. (Reuters)

Across the Arab world, people have taken to social media to express horror at news that thousands of priceless manuscripts were torched by Islamic State radicals in Mosul, Iraq.

At least 8,000 books, manuscripts and documents spanning centuries of learning were torched by the militants group.

There are conflicting reports on whether the library itself has been destroyed, or just a substantial part of its collection.

M Lynx Qualey, who runs a popular blog on Arabic literature, told IBTimes UK that though confirmation from official sources in Mosul had not yet emerged, the consensus among experts in Iraq was that reports of the destruction of the manuscripts was genuine.

Book lovers throughout the Middle East expressed their anger on social media.

"We used to go to the library a lot and it was full of readers and students who found in it a good educational atmosphere. And the people who haven't read any of its books are sad because they consider it public property and heritage.....May God curse the Isis dogs who do not care about the heritage of the city, its past and present," wrote one Facebook user.

"I used to visit it during the holidays and I carried out research and studies there when I was in school...and it contains the memory of Mosul and its people!!!" wrote Abo Mohand.

"Isis burn thousands of rare historic and scientific books and manuscripts in the library of Mosul University. May God disgrace them in this life and the hereafter," tweeted Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, who tweets under @Abdulkhaleq_UAE.

Prominent figures in Mosul tried to dissuade the militants from destroying the library on Sunday, February 22, reports Fiscal Times.

"ISIS militants bombed the Mosul Public Library. They used improvised explosive devices," said Ghanim al-Ta'an, the director of the library told the site.

Amongst the lost works are 18th century manuscripts, Syriac books printed in Iraq's first printing houses in the 19th century, as well as Ottoman texts, and Arab antiquities including astrolabes and sand glass, reports the newspaper.

A Mosul university history professor told AP that militants began destroying the library which was established in 1921 and is a symbol of the birth of modern Iraq, earlier this month.

Unesco director Irina Borokova condemned the destruction.

"It adds to the systematic destruction of heritage and the persecution of minorities that seeks to wipe out the cultural diversity that is the soul of the Iraqi people," she said, and described the destruction of libraries as "one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history."

In 2003, after the after the US led invasion of Iraq, the library was ransacked, but locals saved many of the manuscripts and books, hiding them in their houses, and wealthy Mosul families bought back many of the stolen books, restoring the library.