Sunday, 16 December, 2018

ISIS destroys al-Nuri moque where the militant group began in 2014

Andrew Cummings | 22 June, 2017, 10:14

Iraqi forces pushed closer to Mosul's historical al-Nuri mosque on Wednesday amid fierce clashes with Islamic State (IS) militants in central of the old city in the western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.

Reuters first reported the Iraqi military statement, which was then confirmed by NBC News.

Iraqi forces have been battling for control of Mosul for eight months, and in May US officials said the battle had already seen the most intensive urban warfare since the Second World War.

ISIS issued a statement through its Amaq news agency, blaming a US airstrike for the mosque's destruction. Gen. Rupert Jones, British deputy commander of the global coalition, said during a visit to eastern Mosul. Gen. Joseph Martin, the commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, said in a written statement.

The Iraqi commander in charge of the offensive to retake Mosul said troops were within 50 metres of the mosque when IS "committed another historical crime".

Iraqi forces said Tuesday they were fighting fierce battles with the Daesh terror group and rescuing escaping civilians as they pursued their offensive against Mosul's extremist-held Old City.

The destruction of the famous mosque, which appears on the Iraqi 10,000 dinar note, was announced by the Iraqi military on Wednesday and comes as the Counter Terrorism Service was within several hundred meters of the building.

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Still, the USA military cautioned Wednesday that the fight for Mosul continues despite the destruction of the mosque. The SITE intelligence group has confirmed that ISIS' Amaq news agency released the statement.

"Perhaps they won't want to leave this place that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took to the security forces and maybe they'll send a message accusing Iraqi units of of destroying them", he predicted.

The Old City is the last district under the control of IS within Mosul itself, which was the group's stronghold in Iraq. Picture taken on June 1, 2017.

The mosque is named after Nuruddin al Zanki, a noble who fought the early crusades from a fiefdom that covered territory in modern-day Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

ISIS has rampaged through numerous cultural heritage sites in Iraq and Syria.

The Syrian army, aided by Russian forces, drove ISIS out of Palmyra a year ago and the liberation was celebrated with an orchestra concert there.

"Many children fleeing the violence are severely distressed and need psychological care", he added, calling on all parties involved in the conflict to provide safe passage for civilians.

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