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    Saturday, July 1, 2017

    Mosul recaptured, caliphate ended after three years

    The leaning minaret of Mosul's Grand al-Nuri Mosque survived through the Mongol and Ottoman conquests, neglect under Saddam Hussein and air raids during the U.S. invasion.
    But after three years of ISIS rule, it is now little more than a pile of stones at the centre of the shattered city.
    As advancing Iraqi forces came within steps of the complex last week, the jihadists rigged the mosque and its 850-year-old tower with explosives and blew them up.

    ISIS tried to claim the mosque had been blown up by coalition forces, but multiple independent sources confirm the jihadists were responsible.
    Major General Joseph Martin, who the American commander for the operation to retake Mosul, said: 'As our Iraqi Security Force partners closed in on the Al Nuri mosque, ISIS destroyed one of Mosul and Iraq's great treasures.
    'This is a crime against the people of Mosul and all of Iraq, and is an example of why this brutal organization must be annihilated.' 

    The 45-metre al-Hadba minaret at the mosque was reduced to a stump while the mint green dome was the only part of the prayer hall still standing. 
    In July 2014, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivered a sermon below the mosque's dome, presenting himself at the head of a modern-day caliphate spanning swathes of territory which the group had just seized in a lightning campaign through Iraq and Syria.
    Wearing the black turban and robes denoting a claim to descend from the Prophet Mohammad he claimed: 'I am your leader, though I am not the best of you.'

    Within months, ISIS was carrying out and inspiring militant attacks throughout Europe and the Middle East. An international military coalition led by the United States quickly formed to confront the group, supporting the struggling Iraqi Army with air strikes and special forces. 
    Three years on, the inscribed pulpit where al-Baghdadi proclaimed that he would create a caliphate lies in ruins. 
    The mosque grounds are covered in stone and concrete, and a segment of a secondary minaret is one of the only discernable objects in the rubble. The risk of unexploded ordnance or mines prevented a thorough inspection of the site's interior.

    Baghdadi's appearance at the Nuri mosque was the first time he revealed himself to the world, and the footage broadcast then is to this day the only video recording of him as 'caliph'.
    He long ago left the fighting in Mosul and Syria's Raqqa to local commanders, and is now believed to be hiding in the sparsely-populated border region between the two countries. 
    He has frequently been reported killed, including last month by Russia and Iran.

    While the al-Nuri mosque may now be destroyed, Al-Baghdadi's project to create a new Islamic caliphate is also crumbling.
    The group still rules over an area roughly equivalent to the size of Belgium. But experts say its territorial losses undermine its legitimacy and attractiveness to potential recruits who once flocked from across the world in the tens of thousands.
    The al-Nuri mosque was named after Nuruddin al-Zanki, a noble who fought the early crusaders from a fiefdom that covered territory in modern-day Turkey, Syria and Iraq. It was built in 1172-73, shortly before his death, and housed an Islamic school.

    By the time renowned medieval traveller and scholar Ibn Battuta visited two centuries later, the minaret was leaning. The tilt gave the landmark its popular name: the hunchback.
    The mosque's military and religious history embodied the spirit of Mosul, a diverse but predominately Sunni Muslim city which supplied Iraq's armed forces with officers for much of the 20th century.
    The Hadba minaret, whose tilt begs comparisons to Italy's Tower of Pisa, was built with seven bands of decorative brickwork in complex geometric patterns also found in Persia and Central Asia.
    Only slivers of that design are now visible among the rubble. The eight-month-old U.S.-backed battle for Mosul has also destroyed homes and basic infrastructure across the city and displaced nearly a million residents.
    Civilians, mostly women and children, rushed past the demolished mosque as they crossed the frontline towards Iraqi forces. They were thirsty and tired, and some were injured.

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    Item Reviewed: Mosul recaptured, caliphate ended after three years Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Abdul Sattar Qamar