An iconic mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” in 2014, has been destroyed by suspected ISIS militants as they continue to lose territory.
It happened on Wednesday evening when Iraqi forces reported that both the mosque itself and its iconic leaning minaret had been destroyed in an explosion. Drone footage from the site showed that the buildings were almost completely destroyed.
The Islamic State’s Amaq news agency confirmed that the Great Mosque of al-Nuri had been destroyed but blamed an U.S. airstrike. Iraqi military officials, however, said the mosque was destroyed by ISIS militants when their forces reached the area.
“Our forces were advancing toward their targets deep in the Old City and when they got to within 50 metres (56 yards) of the Nuri mosque, Daesh (ISIS) committed another historical crime by blowing up the Nuri mosque,” the commander in charge of the Mosul offensive said, according to AFP.
The Great Mosque of al-Nuri is where al-Baghadi addressed worshippers in June 2014 as he proclaimed a caliphate, making it one of the group’s key locations. The area of the mosque is expected to be liberated soon as security forces are closing in.
The Great Mosque of al-Nuri was built in the 12th century and is located in Mosul’s Old City. It was well-known for its 45-meter (148-feet) tall leaning minaret, which was called al-Hadba.
Iraqi security forces launched a military offensive in October 2016 to end the Islamic State’s occupation of Mosul, which was seized by the group in 2014 when it was still known as an al-Qaeda splinter group. Large parts of the city have since been retaken by Iraqi security forces.
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