Mosul (Iraq) (AFP) – Iraq declared the Islamic State group’s “caliphate” was coming to an end after it recaptured Mosul’s iconic Nuri mosque Thursday, three years to the day after it was proclaimed by the jihadists.
The jihadist group announced its self-styled “caliphate” on June 29, 2014 across swathes of territory its fighters overran in Iraq and neighbouring Syria.
Its rule since then has been marked by repeated atrocities including mass beheadings and other executions documented in photos and videos that its supporters share online.
“Counter-Terrorism Service forces control the Nuri mosque and Al-Hadba (minaret),” Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said in a statement.
Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani al-Assadi, a senior CTS officer, also confirmed its recapture, telling state TV that “the mosque is (now) behind our units.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi hailed the recapture of the mosque as a sign of IS’s impending defeat.
“We are seeing the end of the fake Daesh state,” Abadi said in an English statement on his Twitter account, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
The mosque and its famed Al-Hadba (hunchback) leaning minaret were Mosul landmarks and also held major significance in the history of IS rule in Iraq.
IS declared its “caliphate” in an audio recording three years ago.
A video released a few days later showed IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaking at Friday prayers at the Nuri mosque and calling on Muslims to obey him, his only known public appearance as “caliph”.
Baghdadi’s fate and whereabouts remain unknown, and IS has lost much of the territory it overran in 2014.
The jihadists blew up the mosque and minaret on June 21 as they put up increasingly desperate resistance to the advance of Iraqi forces.
Only the base of the minaret remains, and while the mosque’s dome is still standing, much of the rest of it has been destroyed.
Officials from Iraq and the US-led anti-IS coalition said the destruction of the site was a sign of the jihadist group’s imminent…