Islamic State terrorists blew up Mosul’s iconic 800-year-old leaning minaret and the adjacent mosque where their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014 declared himself a ‘caliph’, Iraqi officials said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the destruction of the sites was ‘an official declaration of defeat’ from the jihadists in the battle for Mosul.
The terror group issued a statement via its Amaq propaganda agency, blaming a United States strike, but the US-led coalition condemned the destruction as a crime against ‘the people of Mosul and all of Iraq’.
The destruction of two of Mosul’s best-known landmarks comes on the fourth day of an Iraqi offensive backed by the US-led coalition to take the Old City.
‘Our forces were advancing toward their targets deep in the Old City and when they got to within 50 metres of the Nuri mosque, Daesh (IS) committed another historical crime by blowing up the Nuri mosque and the Hadba’ mosque, Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah, the overall commander of the Mosul offensive, said in a statement.
The destruction adds to a long list of Iraqi heritage sites and monuments the jihadist organisation has destroyed in Iraq and Syria since Baghdadi created his ‘caliphate’ straddling both countries three years ago.
IS proclaimed its self-styled 'caliphate' in June 2014, after sweeping across Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland, an unprecedented experiment in jihadist statehood.
In his last public appearance, Baghdadi appeared at the Nuri mosque in Mosul, Iraq's second city, days later to declare himself ‘caliph’ and urge the world's Muslims to move in.