Last Stand: ISIS Blows Up 12th Century Mosque in Mosul as Iraqi Forces Close in
The Islamic State today blew up the Mosul landmark where they declared the formation of their caliphate nearly three years ago, prompting the Iraq government to declare victory over the terror group.
The Great Mosque of al-Nuri, with its distinctive leaning minaret called the Hadba, dated back to the 12th Century.
On June 10, 2014, ISIS seized Mosul. On July 4, 2014, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi broke into Friday prayers at the mosque to deliver his announcement of the new caliphate.
Twenty days after that, ISIS blew up Jonah's Tomb; after east Mosul was liberated in January, archaeologists discovered a palace under the shrine dating back to 600 B.C. The terror group threatened to destroy the minaret but never followed through until now.
Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said ISIS' move signals "an official announcement of their defeat."
ISIS' Amaq news agency claimed that a United States airstrike in support of Iraqi forces destroyed the mosque.
Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, commanding general of Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Operation Inherent Resolve, called ISIS' destruction of "one of Mosul and Iraq's great treasures" a "crime against the people of Mosul and all of Iraq, and is an example of why this brutal organization must be annihilated."
“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," Martin said in a statement released by U.S. Central Command. "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."
The Iraqi military said in a statement that ISIS "committed another historical crime by blowing up the al-Nuri mosque and its historical al-Hadba minaret."
They said Iraq's elite counterterrorism forces had reached within 200 feet of the mosque when ISIS decided to blow it up rather than see it fall out of their hands.
The operation to retake Mosul began in October. ISIS is now isolated to a pocket of west Mosul along the Tigris:
Green= completely liberated.
Orange= frontline clashes.
— Iraqi Day (@iraqi_day) June 21, 2017
The Iraqi Air Force released an aerial shot of the ground where the mosque and minaret once stood:
Iraqi News reported that Iraqi security forces were hoping to capture the mosque in time for Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan that begins this weekend. At least 150 civilians were reportedly murdered by ISIS in the advance on the mosque, trying to flee to the security of Iraqi forces.
Baghdadi is said to have long left Mosul and may be near the Iraq-Syria border, as ISIS' capital in Syria, Raqqa, is now under attack by the Kurdish-Arab-Assyrian Syrian Democratic Forces.