The Guardian reports: The destruction came as Iraqi troops edged to within 50 metres of the mosque, in a densely packed neighbourhood of central western Mosul, more than eight months into the battle to free the city.
“As our Iraqi security force [ISF] partners closed in on the al-Nuri mosque, Isis destroyed one of Mosul and Iraq’s great treasures,” said Maj Gen Joseph Martin, commanding general of the US-led coalition fighting Isis.
“This is a crime against the people of Mosul and all of Iraq, and is an example of why this brutal organisation 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.
“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.”
Isis had vowed to defend the city it seized in July 2014 and had been fiercely resisting advancing forces this summer.
“They blew it up because they did not want the place they announced the caliphate from to be the place where the Iraqi military announces its victory over them,” said Hisham al-Hashimi, an author on extremist groups and a former government adviser.
The loss of the site is another devastating blow to Iraq’s heritage, which has been ravaged by 14 years of war since the US-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein. The militants’ control over northern Iraq has taken a particularly heavy toll, with globally significant archaeological sites being vandalised and pillaged.
“When I looked out of the window and saw the minaret was no longer there, I felt a part of me had died,” Ahmed Saied, a 54-year-old schoolteacher in Mosul, told Reuters.
“In the early morning, I climbed up to my house roof and was stunned to see the Hadba minaret had gone,” Nashwan, a labourer living in the Khazraj neighbourhood near the mosque, said by phone. “I broke into tears. I felt I had lost a son of mine.”
The mosque was destroyed on the Night of Power, one of the holiest dates in the Islamic calendar, when the Qur’an was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. It was built in the 12th century by Noureddine al-Zanki, a famed commander and a contemporary of Saladin, whose family ruled the provinces of Aleppo and Mosul on behalf of the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad.
The mosque was one of the great monuments in Islam after the grand mosques of Mecca and Medina, al-Aqsa in Jerusalem and the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, rivalling others such as the Amr ibn al-’As mosque in Egypt and other more modern structures built in recent centuries. [Continue reading…]