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Photo: AFP
The Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul
Photo: AFP
ISIS blows up mosque where it declared 'caliphate'
ISIS reportedly blows up Grand al-Nuri Mosque of Mosul; it was from there that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a self-styled 'caliphate,' ruling over parts of Syria 3 years ago.
Islamic State (also known as ISIS) militants blew up on Wednesday the Grand al-Nuri Mosque of Mosul and its famous leaning minaret, an Iraqi military statement said.

 

 

It was from this medieval mosque that the militants' leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a self-styled ''caliphate'' rule over parts of Syria and Iraq three years ago.

 

The Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul
The Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul

 

Islamic State's Amaq news agency accused American aircraft of destroying the mosque.

 

Photo, from several days ago: AFP
Photo, from several days ago: AFP

 

"The ISIS (another name for the Islamic State—ed) terror gangs committed another historical crime by blowing up the al-Nuri mosque and its historical al-Hadba minaret," the Iraqi military statement said, .

 

 

The explosions happened as Iraq's elite Counter Terrorism Service units, which have been battling their way through Mosul's Old City, got to within 50 meters (164 ft) of the mosque, the statement said.

 

Blasts in Mosul (Photo: AFP)
Blasts in Mosul (Photo: AFP)

 

Iraqi forces earlier on Wednesday said they had started a push towards the mosque. A US-led coalition is providing air and ground support to the Mosul offensive which began in October 2016.

 

Iraqi anti-ISIS forces in Mosul (Photo: AFP)
Iraqi anti-ISIS forces in Mosul (Photo: AFP)

 

The forces had encircled on Tuesday the jihadist group's stronghold in the Old City, the last district under their control in Mosul.

 

Al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself "caliph," or ruler of all Muslims, from the pulpit of the mosque on July 4, 2014, after the insurgents overran parts of Iraq and Syria. His black flag had been flying over its leaning minaret since June 2014.

 

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Photo: MCT)
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Photo: MCT)

 

Iraqi officials had privately expressed the hope that the mosque could be captured in time for Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month. The first day of the Eid falls this year on June 25 or 26 in Iraq.

 

The fall of Mosul would, in effect, mark the end of the Iraqi half of the "caliphate" even though Islamic State would continue to control territory west and south of the city, the largest they had control of in both Iraq and Syria.

 

Baghdadi has left the fighting in Mosul to local commanders and is believed to be hiding in the border area between Iraq and Syria, according to US and Iraqi military sources.

 

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