ISIS blows up Mosul mosque

ISIS jihadists blow up Grand al-Nuri mosque in Mosul, where their leader announced a "caliphate" in 2014.

Elad Benari,

Smoke rises from Grand al-Nuri mosque in Mosul
Smoke rises from Grand al-Nuri mosque in Mosul

Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists on Wednesday blew up the Grand al-Nuri mosque in Mosul, Iraqi military officials said.

In 2014, the jihadist group's leader chose the mosque to announce the formation of ISIS' so-called "caliphate".

Iraqi forces were around 50 meters of the mosque, which is situated in the heart of Mosul’s Old City, when ISIS jihadists detonated the mosque, according to a senior Iraqi military official quoted by France 24.

The mosque’s iconic leaning minaret, al-Hadba, was also destroyed, the report said.

"Daesh committed another historical crime by blowing up the Nuri mosque and the Hadba" minaret, Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah, the overall commander of the Mosul offensive, said in a statement, using the Arabic acronym for the jihadist group.

It was from the Grand al-Nuri mosque that ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced the so-called “caliphate” in July 2014. The mosque rapidly came to represent a symbol of the jihadist group’s power across swathes of Iraq and neighboring Syria.

The destruction of the iconic mosque sparked a propaganda war on Wednesday, with ISIS releasing a statement claiming that a U.S. airstrike – not the group's jihadists – destroyed the mosque.

The destruction of two of Mosul’s best-known landmarks came on the fourth day of an Iraqi offensive backed by the U.S.-led coalition on the Old City, where holdout jihadists are making a bloody last stand.

The fate of al-Baghdadi remains unknown. There have been several reports in recent months suggesting that he had been injured or even killed, including a claim by Russia just last week. None of those reports have been confirmed, however.