The United States and Iraq said ISIS blew up a historic mosque in Mosul that was the ideological heart of the terror group and the birthplace of its self-declared caliphate.
ISIS, through its news agency, said US warplanes were responsible for the loss late Wednesday of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri and its leaning minaret.
US officials told CNN the ISIS claim was “1,000% false.”
Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the ISIS act amounts to “an official announcement of their defeat.” His military commanders said militants blew the mosque up after troops closed in.
It’s difficult to overstate the symbolism of the Old City mosque that has witnessed fierce fighting between ISIS militants and coalition forces determined to liberate what was the country’s second-largest city.
For years, the militant group’s black and white flag fluttered from the minaret, which has risen over the city for 800 years. Now the site has largely been reduced to rubble.
On July 4, 2014, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi led Friday prayers in the mosque. Shrouded in a black turban and robes, the cleric declared the founding of a new caliphate and called on fellow Sunnis to carry out a holy war.
It was the first and last time the leader of the terrorist group spoke publicly to his followers. The mosque’s imam had been executed about a month earlier for refusing to join ISIS, according to the United Nations.
CNN’s Arwa Damon said Baghdadi’s declaration effectively broke down borders between Syria and Iraq, creating a magnet for foreign fighters wanting to join ISIS’ cause.
The Islamic complex has been very much on the mind of the Iraqi forces, who believed taking control of the mosque would be a highly symbolic victory. Federal police earlier this year said they looked forward to praying in al-Nuri — but the resistance continued.
US and coalition officials have observed the mosque for several days and have seen fighters and explosives at the site, several US officials have told CNN in recent days. The Iraqi military said “ISIS terrorist gangs” blew up the mosque as Iraqi forces were approaching.
The situation in Mosul has been desperate. As ISIS is being squeezed into even smaller territory — a handful of neighborhoods and Mosul’s old city — the civilians held hostage are running out of food. Residents said ISIS fighters have massacred people, young and old, trying to flee.
Damon said about 100,000 terrified civilians remain in the convoluted battlefield.
‘Tinubu’s Ex-Wife & Mother Of His First Son Is Dead’
The National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, has lost his ex-wife.
Though information about the death of the estranged wife of the political icon was shrouded in secrecy, make it exclusively gathered that the deceased died about three and a half weeks ago.
She was said to be the mother of Jide who died on November 1, 2017. Jide was said to be the first son of Tinubu.
‘I don’t believe foreigners are involved in Nigeria killings’ – French envoy contradicts Buhari
Denys Gauer, outgoing French ambassador to Nigeria, says he does not believe that foreigners are involved in the killings across the country.
The French’s envoy position contradicts that of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari had said that the killings are as a result of the influx of mercenaries from the Sahel region.
“It has always been there, but now made worse by the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African sub-region,” the president had said when Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, visited him in London back in April.
But speaking with journalists on Friday in Abuja, Gauer said impunity is encouraging the killings in the country and those responsible must be punished.
The envoy spoke to journalists in commemoration of the 2018 French National Day.
“The reason for the killings is demography; some people are fighting for land, so there must be direct policy to develop agriculture and animal husbandry,” he said.
“I think impunity is encouraging the killings and those responsible must be punished. I don’t believe foreigners are involved in the killings.
“The second is justice. When there is that kind of killing, there must be proper prosecution and perpetrators must be properly sentenced. If that does not happen then, it cannot end.”
INEC: Smartphones can be used at polling units but not inside voting cubicle
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it has not banned the use of smartphones around polling unit areas.
The electoral body says the rule only comes into effect once a prospective voter enters the voting cubicle to cast his or her vote.
Rotimi Oyekanmi, chief press secretary to INEC chairman, made the clarification in an interview with NAN on Wednesday in Abuja.
He said this while reacting to a statement issued by Uche Secondus, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), condemning the decision of INEC to ban the use of smartphones at polling booths.
Secondus had alleged that the decision was to perfect a rigging formula for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
But Oyekanmi said the challenge of vote-buying and selling had prompted many stakeholders to call on INEC to devise innovative ways to tackle the problem.
He said: “In consultation with other stakeholders, the Commission came up with new measures to solve the problem, one of which is to disallow the use of smartphones and other electronic devices in the voting cubicles on election day.
“In other words, INEC is not banning phones around the polling unit area, but the ban takes effect from the moment a prospective voter collects his or her ballot paper and enters into voting cubicle to thumbprint and thereafter drop the folded ballot paper into the ballot box.
“After that, the voter can have access to his or her phone.”
Oyekanmi urged Nigerians to disregard any attempt by any individual or group to politicise what was purely a preventive measure.
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