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ISIS Destroys Iconic Mosul Mosque in What May Be a 'Declaration of Defeat'

ISIS has been ravaging northern Iraq for three years.

On Wednesday night, this destruction continued in the ancient city of Mosul. For months, the Iraqi army has been trying to liberate the city from ISIS control and, in what some are calling a sign of desperation, the terrorist group blew up the iconic Al Nuree Mosque.

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For centuries, the Al Nuree Mosque and its infamous leaning Al Habda Minaret stood in Mosul as symbols of Iraqi identity and unity.

“It’s just something people always identified with because it was always there,” Rasha Al Aqeedi, who was raised in Mosul, told the New York Times.

Now the beloved mosque is pulverized, another victim in a fight that has claimed more than 2,000 lives and caused over 419,000 poeople  to be displaced .

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The site gained sinister significance in 2014 when the seldom-seen leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, made a “startling” public appearance at the mosque, not long after he declared ISIS-held territory a caliphate.

Two years before al-Baghdadi’s appearance, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) began to restore and protect the mosque’s minaret.

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UNESCO director mourned the loss of the cultural treasure on Thursday.

“The Al Hadba Minaret and Al Nuree Mosque in Mosul were among the most iconic sites in the city, and stood as a symbol of identity, resilience and belonging,” she said.

“This new destruction deepens the wounds of a society already affected by an unprecedented humanitarian tragedy, with three million internally displaced persons and 6.2 million in need of immediate humanitarian assistance,” added Bokova. “This calls for immediate and strengthened international mobilization.”.

Since ISIS took control of northern Iraq, the group has damaged or completely destroyed many cherished historical sites (the tomb of the biblical prophet Jonah, the Mosul Museum, the ancient city of Nimrud) and burned thousands of ancient books and manuscripts.

Amid all this, the mosque seemed to be safe. In 2014, following the terrorist group’s destruction of other sacred monuments, residents of Mosul gathered at the minaret in protest, fearing the iconic mosque would be the next target. This protest represented one of the few times that civilians confronted ISIS fighters in the city.  

But it’s unexpected destruction could mean that ISIS is getting desperate and will soon be defeated.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described the destruction as "an official declaration of defeat" by ISIS. Iraq’s counter-terrorism service announced on sunday that they plan to begin the “final chapter” of their fight against ISIS.

They plan to attack the Old City (the last Mosul district under ISIS’s control) from all directions alongside federal army and police. Currently, there are an estimated 100,000 civilians trapped in the Old City.

There have potentially been thousands of civilian casualties in the past few months, and human rights advocates hope that the military exercises restraint to avoid further losses.

Meanwhile, residents of the war-torn city have not lost all hope for rebuilding its spirit and heritage.

“Mosul people built Al Hadba minaret. And we will build a thousand minarets after kicking out ISIS,” Ahmed al-Mallah, 45, said.