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Iraq captures Mosul's decimated Great Mosque of al-Nuri

By Andrew V. Pestano
An aerial image made available by U.S.-led international coalition fighting the Islamic State shows the destroyed remains of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in west Mosul, Iraq, on June 21. Iraqi forces captured the mosque's remains on Thursday. File Photo by Inherent Resolve/EPA
An aerial image made available by U.S.-led international coalition fighting the Islamic State shows the destroyed remains of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in west Mosul, Iraq, on June 21. Iraqi forces captured the mosque's remains on Thursday. File Photo by Inherent Resolve/EPA

June 29 (UPI) -- Iraqi officials said security forces captured west Mosul's Great Mosque of al-Nuri, the mostly destroyed structure where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is believed to have declared the "caliphate."

Iraq's Joint Forces Command said security forces seized the 845-year-old mosque and the accompanying al-Hadba minaret in Mosul's Old City on Thursday. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, Daesh and ISIL, on June 21 detonated explosives that destroyed most of both structures as Iraqi forces were less than 165 feet away in their offensive to capture territory in west Mosul.

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The Iraqi military officials also said forces captured the Old City's al-Sada and Ahmadiyah areas. The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, the Iraqi army and the Federal Police have captured more than half of the Old City, the officials said on Tuesday.

The Iraqi Joint Forces Command also on Thursday said forces are close to announcing "their big military victory over the ISIS militants."

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Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday visited the Joint Forces Command in Baghdad.

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"Our sacrifices and the blood of martyrs and wounded have had a great role in achieving victory. We are determined to liberate the entire territory of Iraq, which has been raped by terrorist gangs," Abadi said.

Mosul's Great Mosque of al-Nuri, also known as the Noor mosque, is where Islamic State leader Baghdadi is believed to have delivered a sermon in which he declared an Islamic State caliphate in 2014. Construction of the mosque was completed in the year 1172.

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Iraq launched its military offensive to retake western Mosul from the Islamic State on Feb. 19. The offensive to retake Mosul began Oct. 17, led by Iraqi security forces and aided by the Kurdish Peshmerga, a Shiite-led militia, and the U.S.-led international coalition. Iraq captured east Mosul in late January.

Abadi last week said Islamic State's destruction is a "formal declaration of defeat."

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