Historic Mosul mosque, minaret razed
BEIRUT — They were ancient monuments that would be more remembered for their modern history: the site where Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr Baghdadi, declared himself “caliph” three years ago. And their capture by government forces was to be a symbol of Islamic State’s defeat in what was once its Iraqi capital.
Instead, Mosul’s most famous landmarks, the Great Nuri Mosque and the leaning minaret known as the Hadba or “hunchback,” were destroyed by the militant group on Wednesday, government officials said.
In their battle to retake the city, commandos from Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service had fought their way to within 50 yards of the landmarks when militant fighters blew them up, the government said.
The 900-year-old mosque was named after Nur Al-Din Zenki, the Zengid leader who wanted to unite all Muslims to fight the Crusaders.
Since Islamic State’s blitz through territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014, the mosque was widely known as the place where Baghdadi gave his first speech as selfdeclared caliph.
A photo from a drone flying over the the mosque and the minaret, released by the local news outlet Sumariya, shows only a small dome in the middle of the site still standing.
A video released later Wednesday shows the minaret at the moment of its destruction. The camera lingers on the minaret before rings of dust burst from its 148-foot length. The detonation rips through the rest of the structure before it collapses to dust.
“The terrorist gangs of Daesh committed another history crime, the blowing up of the Nuri Mosque and the historic Hadba minaret,” Iraqi staff Lt. Gen. Abdulamir Yarallah, the overall commander of the Mosul offensive, said in a statement. He referred to Islamic State by its Arabic acronym.
A government offensive to retake the city was launched in October. This month, Iraqi forces breached the militant group’s last bastion in Mosul, the Old City quarter.
A PHOTO provided by Iraqi officials reportedly shows destruction at Mosul’s Great Nuri Mosque.