'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
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Thursday, June 29, 2017
ISIS - Iraq declares end of caliphate after capture of historic Mosul mosque
After eight months of
grinding urban warfare, Iraqi government troops on Thursday captured the ruined
mosque in Mosul from where Islamic State proclaimed its self-styled caliphate
three years ago, the Iraqi military said. Iraqi authorities expect the long
battle for Mosul to end in the coming days as the remaining Islamic State
fighters are now bottled up in just a handful of neighborhoods of the Old City. The seizure of the
850-year-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque is a huge symbolic victory for the Iraqi
forces fighting to recapture Mosul, which had served as Islamic State's de
facto capital in Iraq. "Their fictitious state has fallen," an Iraqi
military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, told state TV.
The insurgents blew up
the medieval mosque and its famed leaning minaret a week ago as U.S.-backed
Iraqi forces started a push in its direction. Their black flag had been flying
from al-Hadba (The Hunchback) minaret since June 2014. Prime Minister Haider
al-Abadi "issued instructions to bring the battle to its conclusion,"
his office said. The fall of Mosul
would in effect mark the end of the Iraqi half of the IS caliphate even though
the hardline group would still control territory west and south of the city.
Its capital in Syria, Raqqa, is also besieged by a U.S.-backed Kurdish-led
coalition. The cost of the battle has been enormous, however. In addition to
military casualties, thousands of civilians are estimated to have been killed.
About 900,000 people,
nearly half the pre-war population of the northern city, have fled the battle,
mostly taking refuge in camps or with relatives and friends, according to aid
groups. Those trapped in the city suffered hunger and deprivation as well as
death or injury, and many buildings have been ruined. Counter Terrorism Service
(CTS) troops captured the al-Nuri Mosque's ground in a "lightning
operation" on Thursday, a commander of the U.S.-trained elite units told
state TV. Civilians living nearby were evacuated in the past days through
corridors, he added.
CTS units are now in
control of the mosque area and the al-Hadba and Sirjkhana neighborhoods and
they are still advancing, a military statement said. Other government units,
from the army and police, were closing in from other directions. An elite
Interior Ministry unit said it freed about 20 children believed to belong to
Yazidi and other minorities persecuted by the insurgents in a quarter north of
the Old City. A U.S.-led international coalition is providing air and ground
support to the Iraqi forces fighting through the Old City's maze of narrow
alleyways. But the advance remains an arduous task as the insurgents are dug in
the middle of civilians, using mortar fire, snipers, booby traps and suicide
bombers to defend their last redoubt.
The military estimated
up to 350 militants were still in the Old City last week but many have been
killed since. They are besieged in one sq km (0.4 square mile) making up less
than 40 percent of the Old City and less than one percent of the total area of
Mosul, the largest urban center over which they held sway in both Iraq and
Syria. Those residents who have escaped the Old City say many of the civilians
trapped behind IS lines -- put last week at 50,000 by the Iraqi military -- are
in a desperate situation with little food, water or medicines. "Boys and girls
who have managed to escape show signs of moderate malnutrition and carry
psychosocial scars," the United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF said in a
statement. Thousands of children remain at risk in Mosul, it said.
himself "caliph," or ruler of all Muslims, from the Grand al-Nuri
Mosque's pulpit on July 4, 2014, after the insurgents overran vast swathes of
Iraq and Syria. His speech from the mosque was the first time he revealed
himself to the world and the footage broadcast then is to this day the only
video recording of him as "caliph". He has left the fighting in Mosul
to local commanders and is believed to be hiding in the border area between
Iraq and Syria, according to U.S. and Iraqi military sources.
Islamic State last
week broadcast a video showing much of the mosque and brickwork minaret reduced
to rubble. Only the stump of the Hunchback remained, and a dome of the mosque
supported by a few pillars which resisted the blast. The mosque was named after
Nuruddin al‑Zanki, a noble who fought the early Crusaders from a fiefdom that
covered territory in modern-day Turkey, Syria and Iraq. It was built in
1172-73, shortly before his death, and housed an Islamic school. The Old City's
stone buildings date mostly from the medieval period. They include market
stalls, a few mosques and churches, and small houses built and rebuilt on top
of each other over the ages.
The Iraqi state's
failure to prevent Islamic State from overtaking as much as a third of the
country in 2014 is fueling arguments in favor of greater self-determination of
Christian and other minorities it failed to protect. A group of Assyrian,
Chaldean and Syriac Christians published a document on Thursday after a
conference in Brussels this week calling for the self-governance of Christians
in the Nineveh Plains east and north of Mosul, where they have a strong
(Writing by Maher
Chmaytelli,; Editing by Angus MacSwan)