Erbil, Baghdad – Iraqi Civil Defense teams removed on Thursday the bodies of scores of civilians from under the rubble of their houses located near Mosul’s Grand al-Nuri Mosque and its historic al-Hadba minaret.
Ghayath Surgi, who is responsible for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Media Center in Mosul, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the civil defense teams and other forces “are working on removing around 100 bodies” still under the rubble of old houses located near the mosque.
“Those houses collapsed from the explosion. Not a person survived from those living near the mosque,” Surgi added.
On Wednesday, the Nineveh Operations Command accused ISIS of blowing up Mosul’s Grand al-Nuri Mosque and the al-Hadba minaret. The Command said that when the Iraqi forces got to within 50 meters of the Nuri mosque, “ISIS committed another historic crime by blowing up al-Nuri mosque and its minaret.”
Later, ISIS claimed in a statement issued by its mouthpiece Amaq news agency that “a US aircraft has destroyed the mosque.”
However, the coalition’s official spokesperson, US Air Force Colonel John Dorrian denied having launched airstrikes in the area where the 12th century mosque and minaret are located.
It was from this mosque that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his self-proclaimed “caliphate” three years ago.
The explosion drove a large wave of local and international condemnations.
UN special envoy to Iraq, Jan Kubis, said: “This latest barbaric act of blowing up a historic Islamic site adds to the annals of ISIS’ crimes against Islamic, Iraqi and human civilization. The destruction shows their desperation and signals their end.”
On the field, the battle of western Mosul entered its last phases on Thursday as fighting was now restricted in a limited area of the Old City.
Iraqi forces are now very close to completely controlling Mosul, and still only have to liberate four square kilometers of the city where around 500 ISIS militants are hiding.