Iraq declares end of ISIS caliphate with recapture of Grand al-Nuri mosque

You’ve probably seen the video of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announcing the creation of his caliphate in 2014. He made that announcement in an 850-year-old mosque known as the Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul. Thursday, Iraqi troops recaptured the mosque, or what is left of it, and the Prime Minister declared the caliphate was over. From Reuters:

“The return of al-Nuri Mosque and al-Hadba minaret to the fold of the nation marks the end of the Daesh state of falsehood,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement, referring to the hardline Sunni Mulsim group by an Arabic acronym…

“Their fictitious state has fallen,” an Iraqi military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, told state TV.

Aware of the symbolic importance of the mosque, retreating ISIS soldiers blew it up last week and then tried to blame it on a U.S. airstrike:

Islamic State’s Amaq news agency accused American aircraft of destroying the mosque, a claim swiftly denied by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the militant group.

“We did not strike in that area,” coalition spokesman U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian told Reuters by telephone.

“The responsibility of this devastation is laid firmly at the doorstep of ISIS,” U.S. Army Major General Joseph Martin, commander of the coalition’s ground component, said in a statement, using an acronym for Islamic State.

This report shows video of the mosque being destroyed. Iraqi forces were within 50 yards of it just an hour before it was destroyed:

Meanwhile, the fight for Mosul is not quite over yet, though according to a coalition spokesman, it is “imminent.” From CNN:

Mosul’s liberation is “imminent,” but the battle “still remains … a difficult fight,” with days — rather than weeks — left to go, coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said Thursday from Baghdad, confirming Iraqi forces had seized the remains of an iconic mosque and minaret.

The end of the fight in Mosul will still leave ISIS in control of a vast amount of territory including the city of Raqqa in Syria. However, the BBC reports progress is also being made there as well:

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, say they have now sealed off escape routes to the south…

Col Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led coalition against IS, said that the SDF now controlled “all high speed avenues of approach into Raqqa from the south”.

He said that IS fighters “abandoned by their leadership, are being pressured by the SDF from multiple axes around the city”.

The Islamic state isn’t dead yet but it is losing territory and with that, the money it uses to sustain itself. CNN Money reports ISIS is bringing in about $16 million per month now compared to $81 million per month two years ago. This CNN report covers the final push in Mosul.

Finally, this France24 report published today focuses on the snipers working to protect soldiers as they clear the city of ISIS fighters: