Iraqi premier says Mosul mosque’s destruction indicates the Islamic State’s defeat


BAGHDAD — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Thursday that Islamic State’s destruction of the historic al-Nuri mosque in Mosul was an admission of defeat by the extremist group.

“Daesh’s bombing of al-Hadba minaret and al-Nuri mosque is a formal declaration of their defeat,” al-Abadi tweeted in Arabic in the early hours of Thursday, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Militants detonated the mosque on Wednesday as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have been pushing to dislodge the extremist group from the last area under its control in its former stronghold of Mosul.

Over the past few weeks, Iraqi government forces have retaken several neighborhoods in western Mosul, squeezing Islamic State militants into a small, but densely populated, area of the city.

The 12th-century mosque, also known as the Great Mosque, is named after Nour al-Din Zanki, the Sunni Muslim ruler who ordered its construction.

While its historical significance lies in its famous leaning minaret, nicknamed al-Hadba or the hunchback, it holds symbolic significance for both sides of the conflict.

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public appearance in 2014 at al-Nuri mosque, which was seen as an official declaration for his self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

The U.S.-led coalition denied claims by the radical group, which blamed the mosque’s destruction on a U.S. airstrike.

“The responsibility of this devastation is laid firmly at the doorstep of IS, and we continue to support our Iraqi partners as they bring these terrorists to justice,” said Major General Joseph Martin, who commands the ground forces in the coalition.

“However, the battle for the liberation of Mosul is not yet complete,” Martin said.