Islamic State fighters have refurbished the Ninawa International Hotel in their Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, purportedly to house its commanders.
The 5-star facility includes a swimming pool, two restaurants and extensive well-pruned gardens. In a “photo essay” released online Monday, the group’s members are seen milling around the vast lobby, buffing the floors, installing a light-up sign with the hotel’s new name (Al-Waratheen), and trimming the hedges. (RELATED: Here’s How ISIS Justifies Its Oppression Of Christians)
They also are seen destroying the Mesopotamian-style relief sculptures that had previously adorned the hotel’s exterior walls, presumably in keeping with the group’s broad definition of “idolatry.”
The group reportedly celebrated the hotel’s grand reopening May 1, with an open house and festive dinner that concluded with fireworks after sundown. Its online media also distributed photos of colorful balloons for the occasion.
The hotel included ballrooms and bars in its previous incarnation. They are not depicted in the terrorists’ media releases.
Reviews of the hotel on TripAdvisor.com, written before IS’ takeover of Mosul, call it “one of the best hotels in Iraq,” with enviable balcony views of the Tigris river. Visitors especially praised its gym, tennis courts, bowling alley and reasonable room rates.
The ongoing US-led bombing campaign against IS in both Syria and Iraq has slowed its advances and forced it to pursue more drastic propaganda initiatives to boost its reputation. In particular, it has focused on recent dramatic attacks in Libya, as well as its pledges of support from other groups such as Nigeria’s Boko Haram. (RELATED: How ISIS And Al-Qaida Benefit From Local Nutjobs)
IS has held Mosul, its largest single territory in Iraq, since June 2014.
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