The United States and Iraq are blaming ISIS for the destruction late Wednesday of an iconic mosque that stood over the embattled Iraqi city of Mosul for eight centuries.
ISIS, through its news agency, blamed US warplanes for the loss of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri and its minaret.
US officials told CNN the ISIS claim that it destroyed the mosque was “1,000% false.”
It’s difficult to overstate the symbolism of the Old City mosque that has witnessed fierce fighting between ISIS militants and coalition forces.
The mosque has been the ideological heart of ISIS in Iraq, with the militant group’s black and white flag fluttering from the leaning minaret.
In 2014, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stood on its 12th century pulpit and announced the creation of the so-called Islamic caliphate. It was the first and last time the leader of the terrorist group spoke publicly to his followers.
Control of the complex has been very much on the mind of the Iraqi federal police who have battled with ISIS fighters. The police in April said they looked forward to praying in al-Nuri, but the resistance continues.
US and coalition officials have observed the mosque for several days and have seen fighters and explosives at the site, several US officials have told CNN in recent days.
The Iraqi military said “ISIS terrorist gangs” blew up the mosque as Iraqi forces were approaching.
“As our Iraqi Security Force partners closed in on the al-Nuri mosque, ISIS destroyed one of Mosul and Iraq’s great treasures,” said US Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top US commander in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, said: “I was just in Mosul Wednesday afternoon and close enough to see the mosque and its famous leaning minaret. Little did I know it was for the last time. This is just another example that ISIS is a cruel, heartless and godless ideology that cannot be permitted to exist in this world.”