Iraqi army ‘recaptures Mosul mosque’ where IS declared caliphate

The Iraqi army on Thursday announced that it had recaptured the iconic Mosul mosque where Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a ‘caliphate’ in 2014.

The Iraqi army has announced the recapture of the iconic Mosul mosque where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” in 2014.

“Counter-Terrorism Service forces control the Nuri mosque and al-Hadba (minaret)”, the Joint Operations Command said in a statement on Thursday.

Iraqi Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi said, however, that while Iraqi forces were close to retaking the mosque, they were still some 20 metres away.

Baghdadi made his first and only public appearance at the mosque during Friday prayers in 2014, but three years later his fate is unknown and IS has lost most of the territory it overran that year.

The battle for Mosul began over eight months ago and IS has been making a last stand in the historic Old City.

The militant group blew up the Grand al-Nuri mosque on 21 June in increasingly desperate resistance to the advance of Iraqi forces, with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declaring it an “official declaration of defeat”.

The loss of the iconic 12th century minaret – one of the country’s most recognisable monuments sometimes referred to as Iraq’s Tower of Pisa – left Iraqis shocked.

IS claimed on its Amaq propaganda agency that the site was hit in a US air strike, but the US-led coalition said it was the group who had destroyed the historic religious building.