Iraqi forces captured on Thursday the wrecked historic mosque of Mosul in which Daesh terrorist group proclaimed its self-styled “caliphate” three years ago, an Iraqi military statement said.
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 Daesh’s de-facto capital in Iraq.
The mosque is hugely symbolic — from its pulpit, Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in July 2014 declared a self-styled “caliphate,” encompassing territories held by Daesh in Syria and Iraq, which was his only known public appearance.
Iraqi and U.S-led coalition officials say the terrorists blew up the medieval mosque and its landmark leaning minaret a week ago, as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces started a push in its direction, while the militant group says a U.S. airstrike was to blame.
Their black flag had been floating on al-Hadba, the ”hunchback” minaret, since June 2014.
Special forces Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi says his troops won’t enter the destroyed al-Nuri Mosque complex since militants have likely rigged it with explosives but will work to secure the area.
Thursday’s development comes as Iraqi forces are pushing through the last Daesh-held neighborhood in Mosul, the so-called Old City, to the west of the Tigris River.