ISIS just destroyed the mosque where it first declared its 'caliphate'

The minaret that leaned like Italy's Tower of Pisa stood for more than 840 years.

Islamic State's Amaq news agency accused American aircraft of destroying the mosque, a claim swiftly denied by the USA -led global coalition fighting the hardline Sunni group.

"We can confirm the al-Nuri mosque was destroyed", the Washington Post reported the US-led global coalition as saying.

The US-led coalition battling IS in Iraq and neighboring Syria has backed the offensive, including with months of airstrikes.

The terror group also laid waste to the archaeological site of Nimrud in northern Iraq and smashed relics in a Mosul museum, officials have said.

The mosque sat on the southern edge of the Old City, the last IS stronghold inside Mosul.

ISIS had been anticipating a huge fight over the mosque for weeks, closing off side streets and positioning fighters in the surrounding blocks in anticipation for a large battle.

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Iraqi forces, backed by the US -led coalition, have been fighting to rout ISIS from its remaining neighborhoods in Mosul for months.

"As our Iraqi Security Force partners closed in on the al-Nuri mosque, ISIS destroyed one of Mosul's and Iraq's great treasures", said Army Maj. In a report Thursday, June 22, 2017, the United Nation children's agency said they documented a number of cases of Islamic State group fighters killing the children of families trying to flee militant-held neighborhoods in Mosul.

"CJFLCC-OIR is the ground forces command in Iraq that supports the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve's ongoing multi-national Coalition mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq", the coalition said. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi then spoke at the mosque to declare a new caliphate, an attempt to tie the terrorist group to Muslim governments of the past.

The black flag of ISIS had been flying over the leaning minaret since June 2014. Officials had been hoping to recapture the historic building before the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The Iraqi statement said both the mosque and its distinctive Hadba (hunchback) leaning minaret had been blown up.

It is not clear if the mosque is beyond fix or completely destroyed in a district where an estimated 100,000 civilians could be holed-up and could be used as human shields, according to the UN. Just days later, the city was overrun by the Islamic State.

"This mosque has such symbolic value, it does dent the idea of them having a so-called caliphate going forward", Holdaway said.

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