Iraqi forces captured on Thursday the wrecked historic mosque of Mosul in which the Islamic State (IS) group proclaimed its self-styled “caliphate” three years ago, an Iraqi military statement said.
Iraqi Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi said special forces entered the compound and took control of the surrounding streets on Thursday afternoon, following a dawn push into the area.
Earlier, special forces Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi warned the site will need to be cleared by engineering teams as IS group fighters likely rigged it with explosives.
Iraqi forces are pushing through the last IS group-held neighborhood in Mosul, the so-called Old City, to the west of the Tigris River.
Taking the Grand al-Nuri Mosque hands a symbolic victory to the Iraqi forces which have been battling for more than eight month to capture Mosul, the northern city that served as the IS group’s de facto capital in Iraq.
The insurgents blew up the medieval mosque and its landmark leaning minaret a week ago, as US-backed Iraqi forces started a push in its direction. Their black flag had been floating on al-Hadba, the ”hunchback” minaret, since June 2014.
Propaganda war over mosque’s destruction
The partial destruction of the iconic mosque sparked a propaganda war last week, 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,” said coalition spokesman US Air Force Colonel John Dorrian.
“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 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 AP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2017-06-29