The Islamic State has blown up the famous mosque where its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, first declared the caliphate in 2014.
ISIS forces destroyed the famous Great Mosque of al-Nuri Wednesday, as Iraqi forces attempted to close in on the area, according to various reports. An Iraqi commander said he and his men were only 15 yards from the site when it was destroyed.
“As our Iraqi Security Force partners closed in on the al-Nuri mosque, ISIS destroyed one of Mosul and Iraq’s great treasures. 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,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, the commander of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Operation Inherent Resolve, in a statement.
“The responsibility of this devastation is laid firmly at the doorstep of ISIS, and we continue to support our Iraqi partners as they bring these terrorists to justice. However, the battle for the liberation of Mosul is not yet complete, and we remain focused on supporting the ISF with that objective in mind.”
Iraqi Security Forces, spearheaded by the elite Counter Terrorism Service, have been engaged in a brutal, street-by-street battle with ISIS forces inside Mosul for several months. The fight for the western portion of the city has been considerably more lengthy, as ISIS forces are heavily dug in and are utilizing snipers and suicide bombers to attack the ISF in the city’s narrow streets.
— Mustafa Al-Khaqani (@Khaqani_M) June 21, 2017
The al-Nuri mosque was first constructed in the late 12th century, and has been a key symbol in Mosul due to its famous leaning minaret. It became even more well-known after Baghdadi made his infamous pronouncement in June 2014. The event was one of the few times the ISIS leader has been seen in public.
Amaq news agency, a known ISIS propaganda outlet, claimed it was a U.S. air strike, not ISIS, that was responsible for the mosque’s destruction. ISF released an image of the aftermath, which shows debris spread across the city block.
— Rudaw English (@RudawEnglish) June 21, 2017
Mosul is considered ISIS’s regional capital in Iraq and has been one of the premier battlefields for more than six months. As many as 100,000 civilians remain under the terrorist group’s control in the western part of the city, according to the United Nations, many of which are being used as human shields.
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