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Battle for Mosul: IS 'blows up' al-Nuri mosque

Wednesday - 21/06/2017 17:46
So-called Islamic State (IS) has blown up the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, Iraqi forces say.
The Iraqi military provided this image showing the destruction at the mosque compound
The Iraqi military provided this image showing the destruction at the mosque compound

The historic landmark was where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a "caliphate" in 2014.

However, IS claims that US aircraft destroyed the mosque, in a statement issued by its news outlet Amaq.

The Iraqi commander in charge of the offensive to retake Mosul said troops were within 50m of the mosque when IS "committed another historical crime".

The jihadists have destroyed a string of important heritage sites in Iraq and Syria.

The UN has said that IS may be holding more than 100,000 people in Mosul as human shields.

Mosque's minaret (pictured left) in Mosul on 24 May 2017
AFP
The mosque's leaning minaret has been a familiar part of Mosul's skyline
 

Thousands of Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen, assisted by US-led coalition warplanes and military advisers, are involved in the offensive against IS, which was launched on 17 October 2016

The government announced the full "liberation" of eastern Mosul in January 2017. But the west of the city has presented a more difficult challenge, with its narrow, winding streets.

Offensive's 'final chapter'

The Iraqi statement said both the mosque and its distinctive Hadba (hunchback) leaning minaret had been blown up.

Construction began on the mosque in 1172.

A month after IS forces overran Mosul in June 2014, Baghdadi gave a Friday sermon from the pulpit inside the mosque and proclaimed a caliphate - a state governed in accordance with Islamic law, or Sharia, by God's deputy on Earth, or caliph.

It was his first public appearance in many years.

Map showing battle for control of Mosul

The Old City is the last district under the control of IS within Mosul itself, which was the group's stronghold in Iraq.

On Sunday, commanders announced the start of the "final chapter" of the offensive, with Iraq's counter-terrorism service, army and federal police attacking the Old City from all directions.

A street on the frontline against Islamic State in Bab Jded, west Mosul, Iraq on June 21, 2017
GETTY IMAGES
West Mosul has seen fierce fighting between IS and Iraqi forces
 
An Iraqi woman carries a child as she flees from the Old City of Mosul on June 20, 2017, during the ongoing offensive by Iraqi forces to retake the last district still held by the Islamic State (IS) group.
AFP
Civilians have been fleeing the Old City as the offensive continues
 

The army said it believed there were no more than 300 militants left in Mosul, compared with almost 6,000 at the start of the offensive in October.

Earlier this week aircraft dropped leaflets urging civilians to avoid open spaces and to take any opportunity to escape.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned on Tuesday that the flow of injured civilians out of western Mosul had increased, with victims having wounds from gunshots, shelling and bombs.

Source: BBC News:

 Key: US, Islamic State

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