Mosque lies in rubble

MOSUL, Iraq – The leaning minaret of Mosul’s Grand al-Nuri Mosque survived conquests by the Mongols and the Ottomans, neglect under Saddam Hussein, and air raids during the Iran-Iraq War and the US invasion in 2003.

But after three years of Islamic State rule, it is now little more than a pile of stones at the centre of a shattered city.

By all accounts except their own, the jihadists rigged the mosque and its 850-year-old tower with explosives and blew them up last week as advancing Iraqi forces came within steps of the complex.

A Reuters visit to the site on Friday, a day after Iraq’s military recaptured it, confirmed the extent of destruction: the 45-metre al-Hadba minaret had been reduced to a stump while the mint green dome was the only part of the prayer hall still standing.

Fighting raged on a few blocks away. Bullets whizzed past the main gate, which is largely intact, and a mortar fell on an adjacent building.

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.

Across the street, among the detritus of war, laid the partial remains of an Islamic State fighter dressed in red clothing.

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