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  • A still image taken from video shows the destroyed Grand al-Nuri Mosque of Mosul in Iraq, June 21, 2017.

    A still image taken from video shows the destroyed Grand al-Nuri Mosque of Mosul in Iraq, June 21, 2017. | Photo: Iraqi Military Handout/via Reuters TV

Published 21 June 2017

The conflicting versions were released in opposing statements.

The Grand Mosque of al-Nuri in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was destroyed Wednesday, with the Iraqi military saying that Islamic State group was to blame, while the group claimed that a U.S. airstrike was responsible.

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The conflicting versions were released in opposing statements.

The Iraqi military's media office distributed a picture taken from the air that appeared to show the mosque and minaret flattened in the middle of the small houses of the Old City, the historic district where the militants are besieged by Iraqi forces seeking to expel the group from the city. Iraqi forces said earlier on Wednesday they had started a push towards the mosque.

It was from this medieval mosque three years ago that the Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a self-styled "caliphate" spanning parts of Syria and Iraq.

The explosions happened as Iraq's elite Counter Terrorism Service units, which have been battling their way through Mosul's Old City, got to within 164 feet of the mosque, the Iraqi military statement said.

The mosque is 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. The mosque was built in 1172-73, shortly before his death, and housed an Islamic school.

The Mosque's destruction occurred during the holiest period of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, its final 10 days. The night of Laylat al-Qadr falls during this period, marking when Muslims believe the Quran was revealed to the prophet Mohammed.

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