Islamic State group militants have blocked the area around a highly symbolic mosque in Mosul’s Old City where the group’s leader made his first and only public appearance in 2014, a resident said Thursday, Fox News reported.
The move came as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are pushing to recapture the city’s remaining pockets.
The militants have ordered families living near al-Nuri mosque — also known as the Great Mosque — to leave their houses and sealed all the roads leading to it, said the resident who lives in the IS-held sections of Mosul.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivered a Friday sermon in al-Nuri mosque in 2014 after IS seized almost a third of Iraq and declared an Islamic “caliphate” on territory it controlled in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
The iconic 840-year-old “Crooked Minaret,” which leans somewhat like Italy’s Tower of Pisa, survived destruction by IS militants as residents formed a human chain to protect it when the militants came to blow it up. The extremists demolished dozens of historic and archaeological sites in and around Mosul, saying they promote idolatry.