The seizure of the 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque is a huge symbolic victory for Iraqi forces. PIC/AFP
After eight months of grinding urban warfare, Iraqi government troops on Thursday captured the ruined mosque in Mosul from where Islamic State proclaimed its self-styled caliphate three years ago, the Iraqi military said.
Iraqi authorities expect the long battle for Mosul to end in the coming days as the remaining Islamic State fighters are now bottled up in just a handful of neighbourhoods of the Old City. The seizure of the 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque is a huge symbolic victory for the Iraqi forces fighting to recapture Mosul, which had served as Islamic State's de facto capital in Iraq.
"Their fictitious state has fallen," an Iraqi military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, told state TV. The insurgents blew up the medieval mosque and its famed leaning minaret a week ago as US-backed Iraqi forces started a push in its direction. Their black flag had been flying from al-Hadba (The Hunchback) minaret since June 2014.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi "issued instructions to bring the battle to its conclusion," his office said.
Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) troops captured the al-Nuri Mosque's ground in a "lightning operation" on Thursday, a commander of the US-trained elite units told state TV. A US-led international coalition is providing air and ground support to the Iraqi forces fighting through the Old City's maze of narrow alleyways. The fall of Mosul would in effect mark the end of the Iraqi half of the IS caliphate even though the group would still control territory west and south of the city. Its capital in Syria, Raqqa, is also besieged by a US-backed Kurdish-led coalition.
9L People who have fled the battle in Mosul