Islamic State militants have blown up one of the oldest churches in the city of Mosul, according to Kurdish media sources.
St George’s church was built in the late 17th century, though rebuilt in 1931.
According to the Rudaw news service, cries of ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Great) rose from many mosques in the city as Islamist militants blew up the church.
Since its takeover of Mosul in June, Islamic State has destroyed a number of churches, Shiite mosques and other ancient sites, including the shrine of Prophet Jonah.
Mosul was once the heartland of Iraqi Christianity, with a Christian presence going back many generations. Islamic State militants gave Christians the option of leaving the the city, converting or dying when they took over the city in July. Many were murdered or driven out in circumstances of extreme brutality.
Saad Mamuzin, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) 14th branch in Mosul told Rudaw that the latest bombings are Islamic State’s revenge for their defeat on the battleground.
“The organisation has once again turned to bombing churches and mosques after it lost popularity and many of its members to the airstrikes that have targeted strongholds in different areas of the city,” he said.
The extremist group has also blown up Yazidi and Kakei shrines outside the city as thousands of Yazidi and Christians have fled their homes to the Kurdistan region.
Pressure is mounting on Islamic State in the area, with the reported death of at least 33 militants yesterday in Mosul and the surrounding region, including a leader implicated in the sale of abducted Yazidi women. Iraqi security forces have retaken two town after battles with militants.
US Vice President Joe Biden met Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan during a visit to Istanbul at the weekend aimed at boosting co-operaton between the two countries in their policy towards Islamic State. Turkey has been a reluctant partner in the US-led coalition. It has demanded the removal of President Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria and the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria, which the US has resisted. However, Turkey has offered to train Syrian rebels and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
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