Militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, blew up a Muslim shrine Thursday in Mosul, Iraq. The holy site was traditionally believed to be the resting place of the prophet Jonah, residents of the city said.
Mosul residents told The Associated Press that militants ordered everyone out of the mosque before destroying it.
Destruction of the holy site was confirmed by civil defense officials, according to CNN.
“ISIS militants have destroyed the Prophet Younis [Jonah] shrine east of Mosul city after they seized control of the mosque completely,” an anonymous security source, told the Iraq-based Al-Sumaria News, according to Al-Arabiya.
“The militants closed all of the mosque doors and prevented worshipers from entering to pray,” the source said.
The shrine was originally built on an archaeological site that dates back to the eighth century B.C. and is said to be the burial place of the prophet who, in stories from both Muslim and Judeo-Christian traditions, was swallowed by a whale.
The mosque was renovated in the 1990s under Saddam Hussein’s rule and was a popular destination for religious pilgrims from around the world.
Mosul residents said ISIS militants claimed the mosque had become a place for apostasy and not prayer.
The explosion came just hours after Iraqi lawmakers elected Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum as the country’s new president.
Iraq is struggling to build a new government amid the ISIS insurgency that has captured cities, including Mosul, in the northern and western parts of the country. The spreading violence is said to be the worst Iraq has seen since U.S. troops withdrew from the country in 2011.
ISIS, a radical, al-Qaida splinter group, has also seized territory straddling the border between Iraq and Syria and has declared a caliphate with strict adherence to Sharia law in the territory it controls.
Mosul residents said ISIS also destroyed another popular shrine, the Imam Aoun Bin al-Hassan Mosque, on the same day.
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