Jihadists blew up Mosul's iconic leaning minaret (left) and the adjacent Nuri mosque where their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate" in his only public appearance in 2014. Pics/AFP
Islamic State militants on Wednesday blew up the Grand al-Nuri Mosque of Mosul and its famous leaning minaret, Iraq's military said in a statement, as Iraqi forces seeking to expel the group from the city closed in on the site.
It was from this medieval mosque three years ago that the militants' leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a self-styled "caliphate" spanning parts of Syria and Iraq. "Blowing up the al-Hadba minaret and the al-Nuri mosque amounts to an official acknowledgement of defeat," Iraqi Prime Minister said in a brief comment on his website.
The Iraqis called the 150-foot leaning minaret Al-Hadba, or "the hunchback." Baghdadi's black flag had flown over it since June 2014. Islamic State's Amaq news agency accused American aircraft of destroying the mosque, a claim swiftly denied by the US-led coalition fighting the militant group. "We did not strike in that area," said coalition spokesman US Air Force Colonel John Dorrian.
'Removing Assad no longer priority'
France no longer sees the departure of Pres-ident Bashar al-Assad as a priority in the Syrian conflict, President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday, making the policy official for the first time. "My line is clear: one, a total fight against terrorist groups. They are our enemies... Two: stability in Syria, because I don't want a failed state," he said.
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