ISIS destroyed the iconic al-Nuri mosque, a clear sign of its pending defeat in Mosul.
The Islamic State (ISIS) terror group on Wednesday blew up a historic landmark in Mosul — the city’s famed 12th century al-Nuri mosque with its iconic leaning minaret known as al-Hadba, from where the ISIS leader proclaimed the terror group’s self-styled caliphate nearly three years ago.
The explosion destroyed another piece of priceless Iraqi cultural heritage, the last in a long line of historic and cultural sites destroyed by ISIS throughout the Middle East.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi tweeted early on Thursday that the destruction was an admission by the terrorists that they are losing the fight for Iraq’s second-largest city.
The al-Nuri mosque, which is also known as Mosul’s Great Mosque, is where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made a rare public appearance, declaring a so-called Islamic caliphate in the summer of 2014, shortly after Mosul was overrun by the terrorists. The minaret that leaned like Italy’s Tower of Pisa had stood for more than 840 years.
ISIS blew up the mosque during the celebrations of Laylat al Qadr, the holiest night of the year for Muslims. The “Night of Power” commemorates the night the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during the Muslim month of Ramadan, which is now underway.
An ISIS statement blamed an airstrike by the US for the loss of the mosque and minaret.
The US-led coalition rejected the ISIS’ claim. Spokesman, US Army Col. Ryan Dillon told the Associated Press coalition planes “did not conduct strikes in that area at that time.”
ISIS fighters initially attempted to destroy the minaret in July 2014. The terrorists said the structure contradicted their interpretation of Islam, but Mosul residents converged on the area and formed a human chain to protect it. ISIS has demolished dozens of historic and archaeological sites, saying they promoted idolatry.
Earlier this month, Mosul residents reported ISIS fighters had begun sealing off the area around the mosque. Residents said that ISIS fighters ordered families living in the area to leave — likely in preparation for the terrorists’ final stand.
ISIS ‘Must be Annihilated’
“This is a crime against the people of Mosul and all of Iraq, and is an example of why this brutal organization must be annihilated,” US Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, the commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, said in a written statement.
“The responsibility of this devastation is laid firmly at the doorstep of ISIS,” he added.
The mosque sat at the heart of the Old City, the last ISIS stronghold in Mosul. Iraqi forces launched a push into the Old City earlier this week, but have made slow progress as the last ISIS fighters there are holed up with an estimated 100,000 civilians according to the United Nations.
Brett McGurk, the US envoy for the global coalition against ISIS, also criticized the destruction at the hands of the militants, describing it as “a very significant moment,” in comments Thursday at an annual security and policy conference in Herzliya, Israel.
“Late yesterday, as Iraqi security forces closed in on that mosque about a hundred meters away, ISIS blew it up, a mosque that sat there since the 12th century,” McGurk said.
The fight to retake Mosul was launched more than eight months ago and has displaced more than 850,000 people. While Iraqi forces have experienced periods of swift gains, combat inside the city has largely been grueling and deadly for both Iraqi forces and civilians.