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5 bombs ‘designed to trigger massive destruction’ found in iconic Iraq mosque, planted years ago by IS: UN agency


NEW DELHI: During ongoing restoration work at the historic Al-Nuri mosque in Mosul, a Unesco team uncovered five bombs that were planted by Islamic State (IS) jihadists years ago. The discovery was made on Tuesday, with a representative for the United Nations agency revealing the details late on Friday.
The bombs, described as “large-scale explosive devices” designed to cause massive destruction, were found embedded in the southern wall of the mosque’s prayer hall.The Al-Nuri mosque, along with its famous leaning minaret known as Al-Hadba or the “hunchback,” dates back to the 12th century and was significantly damaged during the battle to liberate Mosul from IS control.
The Iraqi army has accused IS, which occupied Mosul for three years, of planting explosives at the site and later detonating them. Unesco has been leading efforts to restore the mosque and other significant cultural sites in the city, much of which was left in ruins after the battle in 2017.
Unesco reported that the Iraqi armed forces swiftly secured the area, ensuring the situation was under control. While one of the bombs has been safely removed, four others, each weighing 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds), remain connected and are expected to be cleared in the coming days.
“These explosive devices were hidden inside a wall, which was specially rebuilt around them. This explains why they could not be discovered when the site was initially cleared by Iraqi forces in 2020,” the agency said as quoted by AFP.
General Tahseen al-Khafaji, spokesperson for Iraq‘s Joint Operations Command, confirmed the discovery, stating that provincial deminers have sought assistance from the Defence Ministry in Baghdad due to the bombs’ complex construction. Consequently, all construction work at the site has been suspended until the remaining devices are safely defused.
Al-Nuri mosque holds historical significance as the location where Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, then-leader of IS, declared the establishment of the group’s “caliphate” in July 2014. The jihadist group once controlled large areas of Iraq and Syria, imposing a brutal regime until they were ousted by Iraqi forces with support from a US-led coalition in 2017.
Named after Nureddine al-Zinki, the 12th-century unifier of Syria who ordered its construction in 1172, the Al-Nuri mosque has seen multiple restorations. While most of the original structure was lost, the minaret was preserved and rebuilt using 45,000 of the original bricks saved from the debris.
The current restoration project, largely funded by the United Arab Emirates, is expected to be completed by December 2024. Unesco stated that the successful completion of the project will finally remove “the stigma” of IS occupation from this cherished landmark.
This is not the first unexpected discovery during the restoration. In January 2022, teams unearthed an underground prayer room from the original 12th-century building, adding another layer to the mosque’s rich historical narrative.

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