Radicals from the Muslim terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), destroyed the shrine of the Christian biblical prophet Jonah, in an action not seen since the Taliban destroyed Buddhist religious sites during their rule in Afghanistan.
Iraqi news sources reported that the group destroyed the prophet’s shrine located east of Mosul on Thursday, after seizing control of the mosque that contained it. The militants shut down all doors of the mosque, preventing religious observers from entering for their daily prayer, before blowing up the holy site.
“ISIS militants have destroyed the shrine of Prophet Younis (Jonah) east of Mosul city after they seized control over the mosque completely,” an anonymous security source told the Iraq-based al-Sumaria News.
The ISIS members reportedly blocked the entrances to the mosque before securing the perimeter and placing explosives throughout the holy place of worship. It took ISIS nearly an hour to fill the area with explosive devices. They incinerated the holy site in front of many observers.
The prophet Jonah is best known in the Old Testament of the Bible — as well as the Quran — as the man swallowed by a large fish. Jonah spent three days and three nights residing inside the fish, praying to God. He is saved by God, then proceeds to save the people of Nineveh. Jonah is revered in Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
The tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul was the primary shrine to the biblical figure in the world, and served as his major worship site. It was built on an archeological site dating back to the 8th century BC, and is believed to be the burial place of Jonah, although this fact cannot be fully confirmed. The shrine was last renovated by Sadam Hussein during the 1990s. Since then, the site has remained a popular site for religious pilgrims of all three faiths.
ISIS presents the greatest crisis seen yet by the Iraqi people since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops. The militants have seized huge chunks of territory within the country, gaining control of major cities in both the West and the North, as well as along the Iraqi-Syrian border.
The last time a Muslim terrorist organization destroyed a religious site was when the Taliban blew up sandstone statues of the Buddha in Kabul in 2001. T incident prompted an international outcry, and spurred religious leaders — as well as government officials — to work diligently to preserve the country’s cultural heritage.