His­toric Mo­sul mosque, minaret razed

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Nabih Bu­los and W.J. Hen­ni­gan Spe­cial correspondent Bu­los re­ported from Beirut and Times staff writer Hen­ni­gan from Wash­ing­ton. Staff writer Molly Hen­nessy-Fiske in Beirut and spe­cial correspondent Wael Resol in Su­lay­maniya, Iraq, con­trib­uted.

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.

Joint Op­er­a­tions Com­mand

A PHOTO pro­vided by Iraqi of­fi­cials re­port­edly shows de­struc­tion at Mo­sul’s Great Nuri Mosque.

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