A view of the mosque and minaret in 1932 (image courtesy LOC/Wikipedia)

Today, the 12th-century Grand Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, Iraq, including its distinctive “hunchback” minaret, was destroyed during the Battle of Mosul. Iraqi and US officials are blaming the destruction on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), while the terror group is claiming the US destroyed the mosque after a bombing.

A view of the “leaning” minaret in 2013 (via Wikipedia)

The mosque has an important role in ISIS propaganda, because it is the site where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a ‘caliphate’ in 2014. It’s worth mentioning that the Russians claimed to have killed the ISIS leader a few days ago, but many have doubted the validity of the report.

The news comes as Iraqi government forces continue their urban offensive to recapture the western side of Mosul from ISIS fighters. According to Al Jazeera, Iraqi forces were within 164 feet (50 meters) of the mosque at the time of the destruction. If it is proven that ISIS did indeed destroy the site, it could undermine the terror group’s claims to represent Sunni Islam, as the mosque is an important Sunni site in the region. ISIS routinely uses mosques and minarets during fighting, according to the Times.

The recapture of Mosul would be a serious blow to ISIS’s presence in Iraq, and limit them to rural areas outside the major city that are sparsely populated. The Grand Al-Nuri Mosque is only the latest mosque, church, monastery, or shrine in Mosul to be destroyed by ISIS.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.