Islamic militant sect, ISIS, which has been rampaging across the north and west of Iraq since last month, has been demolishing sacred sites such as shrines and mosques around the historic northern city of Mosul in Nineveh province.
Photographs from the area posted online under the banner “Demolishing shrines and idols in the state of Nineveh” depicted mosques being turned into piles of rubble – explosives deployed against Shiite buildings – and bulldozers flattening the shrines.
At least four shrines to Sunni Arab or Sufi figures have been destroyed by the bulldozers, according to AFP. The structures had been built around graves of Muslim saints. Six Shiite mosques have also been destroyed using explosives.
“We feel very sad for the demolition of these shrines, which we inherited from our fathers and grandfathers,” 51-year-old Mosul resident Ahmed told AFP.
“They are landmarks in the city,” he said.
Local residents verified that buildings had been destroyed and two cathedrals occupied to the agency. Crosses at the front of Mosul’s Chaldean cathedral and Syrian Orthodox cathedral were removed and replaced with the black flag of the Islamic State.
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The city of Tal Afar, approximately 70km west of Mosul, was also targeted, with a Shiite Huseiniya temple being blown up.
One of the shrines destroyed had survived a prior targeting by the group on June 24.
“Dozens of men, women and children formed a human wall and surrounded the sacred shrine of Sheikh Fathi in al-Mushahada neighbourhood of western Mosul and prevented the terrorists from storming it,” Ninawa tribal council deputy head Ibrahim al-Hassan told Al-Shorfa shortly after the incident.
Sheikh Fathi’s shrine – one of Mosul’s most important, dating back to 1760, was among those destroyed.
Mosul was captured on June 10 when Sunni militants drove Iraq’s army out of the city. Thousands of civilians fled as jihadists took control of the city against the Shi’ite majority Baghdad government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Maliki has sworn to defeat the jihadists; on Friday he stated publicly that: “Pulling out of the battlefield while facing terrorist organizations that are against Islam and humanity would show weakness instead of carrying out my legitimate, national and moral responsibility.”
“I have vowed to God that I will continue to fight by the side of our armed forces and volunteers until we defeat the enemies of Iraq and its people,” he said.