Radical Islamic extremists blew up a historic mosque in Mosul, Iraq, according to the Iraqi military.
Th destruction of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul occurred during Islam’s holiest day of the year — the “Night of Power,” this year on June 21 — during the month of Ramadan. On this sacred day, Muslims spent the night in prayer and worship.
“[The Night of Power is] supposed to be a time for peace, reconciling with family and friends, and asking for forgiveness, but for [the Islamic State], in this kind of perverse way, it’s an even better time to launch a terror attack,” Greg Barton, a Deakin University counterterrorism expert in Australia, told news.com.au.
Three years ago at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself the head of the new “caliphate” that encompasses parts of Iraq and Syria, as Reuters reported. Now ISIS has destroyed this mosque and the mosque’s minaret.
“ISIS’s destruction of the historic al-Nuri mosque is a tragedy that shows the self-destructive nature of this group and its nihilistic ideology,” Robert Nicholson, an expert on religion in the Middle East and the executive director of the Philos Project, told LifeZette in an email. The Philos Project is a New York-based nonprofit organization that promotes positive Christian engagement in the Middle East.
“ISIS cares for nothing and no one, and would rather destroy a place of worship rather than let it fall into anyone else’s hands,” Nicholson said. “All those who would be inspired by ISIS should look on as ISIS, just like the mosque, collapses.”
The Iraqi prime minister declared the act an admission of defeat by ISIS.
“We in the West must work hard to build alliances with those Muslims who see this ideology for what it is and seek to confront it,” the Philos Project’s Nicholson said.
Meanwhile, ISIS puts the blame on an American aircraft for the destruction, according to reports. The U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS denied this claim.
“Images showing the mosque area and aerial photographs provided by the U.S. military depicted scenes of widespread damage, with its renowned leaning minaret no longer standing and the compound largely in ruins,” The Guardian reported.
In 2014, ISIS seized the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Baghdadi’s black flag has flown over the mosque since then, noted Reuters.
“[T]he battle for the liberation of Mosul is not yet complete, and we remain focused on supporting the [Iraqi security force] with that objective in mind,” Major Gen Joseph Martin, commanding general of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, said in a statement.
Regarding the destruction of the mosque, the coalition is clear about the perpetrators: “[ISIS] blew it up because they did not want the place they announced the caliphate from to be the place where the Iraqi military announces its victory over them,” Hisham al-Hashimi, an author on extremist groups and a former Iraqi government adviser, told The Guardian.
Ramadan, the month dedicated to fasting and prayer for Muslims, ends June 24.