UNESCO finds ISIS-era bombs in Mosul mosque walls

For illustration purposes: Fleeing civilians walk past the heavily damaged al-Nuri mosque as smoke rises in the background in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, on July 4, 2017.
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Felipe Dana/Copyright 2017 The AP. All rights reserved.

Iraq

The United Nations cultural agency has discovered five bombs hidden within the walls the historic al-Nouri Mosque in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, a remnant of the Islamic State militant group’s rule over the area, UNESCO said in a statement Saturday (Jun. 29).

Iraqi authorities have requested UNESCO to halt all reconstruction operations at al-Nouri mosque and evacuate the entire complex until the devices are disarmed.

The mosque, famous for its 12th-century leaning minaret, was destroyed by IS in 2017 and has been a focal point of UNESCO’s restoration efforts since 2020.

UNESCO said that five large-scale explosive devices, designed for significant destruction, were found inside the southern wall of the Prayer Hall on Tuesday.

They were “concealed within a specially rebuilt section of the wall,” the statement said, adding Iraqi authorities were notified and the area secured.

It said one bomb had been defused and removed, while the remaining four are “interconnected and will be safely disposed of in the coming days.”

IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared an Islamic caliphate from the mosque a decade ago on June 29, 2014, leading to its destruction when extremists blew it up during the battle to liberate Mosul in 2017.

The discovery of these bombs underscores ongoing challenges in clearing Mosul of explosives and revitalizing its devastated urban areas.

International efforts, supported by the United Nations, focus on mine clearance and aiding in the city’s recovery.

Despite progress, much of Mosul’s old city remains in ruins, marked by minefield warning signs.

UNESCO aims to complete the full reconstruction of al-Nouri Mosque by December 2024.

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