Islamic State (IS) group militants on Wednesday blew up the Grand al-Nuri mosque in Mosul, according to Iraqi military officials. In 2014, the jihadist group's leader made an appearance at the landmark mosque.
Iraqi forces were approximately 50 metres from the mosque, which is situated in the heart of Mosul’s labyrinthine Old City, when IS militants detonated it, according to a senior Iraqi military official.
The mosque’s iconic leaning minaret, al-Hadba, was also destroyed.
"Daesh committed another historical crime by blowing up the Nuri mosque and the Hadba" minaret, Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah, the overall commander of the Mosul offensive, said in a statement, using the Arabic acronym for the jihadist group.
It was at the Grand al-Nuri mosque that the IS group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, made an appearance in 2014. The mosque rapidly came to represent a symbol of the jihadist group’s power across swathes of Iraq and neighbouring Syria.
''Blowing up the al-Hadba minaret and the al-Nuri mosque amounts to an official acknowledgement of defeat,'' Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a brief comment on his website.
The destruction of the iconic mosque sparked a propaganda war on Wednesday, with the IS group releasing a statement that the mosque was destroyed in a US airstrike.
That assertion was firmly denied by US military officials.
"We did not strike in that area," coalition spokesman US Air Force Colonel John Dorrian told Reuters by telephone.
"The responsibility of this devastation is laid firmly at the doorstep of ISIS," US Army Major General Joseph Martin, commander of the coalition's ground component, said in a statement, using an acronym for the IS group.
The destruction of two of Mosul’s best-known landmarks came on the fourth day of an Iraqi offensive backed by the US-led coalition on the Old City, where holdout jihadists are making a bloody last stand.
It adds to a long list of Iraqi heritage sites and monuments the IS group has destroyed in Iraq and Syria since Baghdadi announced his "caliphate" three years ago.
The fight to retake Mosul, once Iraq’s second largest city, was launched more than eight months ago and has displaced more than 850,000 people.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2017-06-21