ISIS fighters have reportedly blown up the historic Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul according to the Iraqi army.
Iraqi government forces and Shia militias advanced within 50 metres of the famous mosque in an attempt to capture the location where the self-professed caliphate was declared by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in June 2014 shortly after the group’s capture of Mosul.
The Iraqi military said in a statement: “[ISIS] committed another historical crime by blowing up the al-Nuri mosque and its historical al-Habda minaret.”
The mosque was named after the famous medieval Islamic figure, scholar and military leader, Nur Ad-dee al Zengi.
The building was built between 1172-73, and the iconic tilting minarets gave the landmark its popular name – the hunchback or “al-Hadba”.
ISIS have denied the accusation and have blamed US warplanes for destroying the mosque.
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Aerial images have been released by the US military showing the mosque compound and its surrounding area decimated with its famous leaning minaret no longer standing.
A spokesman for the US military denied bombing the famous mosque saying that it was not carrying out air strikes in the area.
The US army has been providing heavy ground and air support to Iraqi government forces since the campaign began to retake the city.
Major General Joseph Martin, commanding general of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS, said: “As our Iraqi security force [ISF] partners closed in on the al-Nouri mosque, ISIS destroyed one of Mosul and Iraq’s great treasures.
“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.”
Baghdadi is unlikely to be found in Mosul, as he has allegedly left the fighting to local commanders.
US and Iraqi military sources have claimed that they believe the ISIS leader is hiding in the border area between Syria and Iraq.