Historic Syrian mosque disfigured



THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published — Thursday 25 April 2013

Last update 26 April 2013 10:05 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

BEIRUT: The minaret of a landmark 12th century mosque in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo was destroyed yesterday, leaving the once-soaring stone tower a pile of rubble and twisted metal scattered in the tiled courtyard.
President Bashar Assad's regime and anti-government activists traded blame for the destruction to the Umayyad Mosque, which occurred in the heart Aleppo's walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It was the second time in just over a week that a historic mosque in Syria has been seriously damaged. Mosques served as a launching pad for anti-government protests in the early days of the country's 2-year-old uprising, and many have been targeted.
Syrian's state news agency SANA said rebels from the Al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Al-Nusra group blew it up, while Aleppo-based activist Mohammed Al-Khatib said a Syrian army tank fired a shell that "totally destroyed" the minaret.
The mosque fell into rebel hands earlier this year after heavy fighting that damaged the historic compound. The area around it, however, remains contested. Syrian troops are about 200 meters (yards) away.
An amateur video posted online by the anti-government Aleppo Media Center activist group showed the mosque's archways, charred from earlier fighting, and a pile of rubble where the minaret used to be.
Standing inside the mosque's courtyard, a man who appears to be a rebel fighter says regime forces recently fired seven shells at the minaret but failed to knock it down. He said that yesterday the tank rounds struck their target.
"We were standing here today and suddenly shells started hitting the minaret," the man says. "They (the army) then tried to storm the mosque but we pushed them back."
The video appeared genuine and corresponded to other Associated Press reporting of the events depicted. The destruction in Aleppo follows a similar incident in the southern city of Daraa, where the minaret of the historic Omari Mosque was destroyed more than a week ago. The Daraa mosque was built during the Islamic conquest of Syria in the days of Caliph Omar ibn Al-Khattab in the seventh century.
In that instance as well, the opposition and regime blamed each other for the damage. SANA also accused Jabhat Al-Nusra of positioning cameras around the area to record the event in that case.
Syria's civil war, with the use of everything from small arms to artillery and warplanes, poses a grave threat to the country's rich cultural heritage.
Last year, the medieval market in Aleppo, which is located near the Umayyad Mosque, was gutted by fire sparked by fighting last year.
Both rebels and regime forces have turned some of Syria's significant historic sites into bases, including citadels and Turkish bath houses, while thieves have stolen artifacts from museums.
Five of Syria's six World Heritage sites have been damaged in the fighting, according to UNESCO, the UN's cultural agency. Looters have broken into one of the world's best-preserved Crusader castles, Crac des Chevaliers, and ruins in the ancient city of Palmyra have been damaged.
The damage is just part of the wider devastation caused by the country's crisis, which began more than two years ago with largely peaceful protests but morphed into a civil war as the opposition took up arms in the face of a withering government crackdown. The fighting has exacted a huge toll on the country, killing more than 70,000 people, laying waste to cities, towns and villages and forcing more than a million people to flee their homes and seek refuge abroad.
Aleppo has been carved into rebel- and regime-held zones, while Damascus remains firmly in government hands, although the rebels have established a foothold in the suburbs and hope to use their enclaves there to eventually push into the city itself.
Yesterday, two mortar rounds slammed into the Damascus suburb of Jaramana, killing at least seven people and wounding dozens, state media and activists said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the shells hit near a municipality building and a school in Jaramana. The Observatory, which relies on reports from a network of activists on the ground, said 10 people were killed and 30 were wounded in the attacks.
Syrian state-run SANA news agency said seven people were killed in the attack.
The differences in the death tolls could not be immediately reconciled.
Also yesterday, Syrian church officials said the whereabouts of two bishops kidnapped in northern Syria remain unknown, a day after telling reporters the priests had been released.
Gunmen pulled Bishop Boulos Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church and Bishop John Ibrahim of the Assyrian Orthodox Church from their car and killed their driver on Monday while they were traveling outside Aleppo. It was not clear who abducted the priests.
Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman said Wednesday that activists in the area where the kidnapping took place say the gunmen were foreign fighters from the Caucuses.
However, the main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, condemned the kidnapping and blamed Assad's regime.
There has been a spike in kidnappings in northern Syria, much of which is controlled by the rebels, and around Damascus in recent months. Residents blame criminal groups that have ties to both the regime and the rebels for the abductions of wealthy residents traveling to Syria from neighboring Turkey and Lebanon.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: In a fresh boost for relations between Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh, the Kingdom has decided to sign a memorandum of understanding on Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) with Dhaka. The Kingdom endorsed a proposal in this regard at a meeting be...
The Indonesian mission is hopeful detained Indonesian pilgrims will be free “very soon.” The mission is trying to persuade Saudi authorities of their nationals’ innocence.Eleven Indonesian pilgrims, who arrived in the holy city of Makkah to perform U...
JEDDAH: Police at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh arrested a Saudi hacker after a government organization in Al-Leith in Makkah complained that he had hacked its website, according to an online newspaper.Col. Atti Al-Qurashi, spokesman fo...
JEDDAH: The special criminal court has sentenced a former military official to nine years in jail for joining Daesh and traveling to Syria to fight.A fine of SR5,000 was also slapped on him and he was barred from traveling abroad for nine years after...
JEDDAH: Saudi-Indian ties have reached a new high with the arrival of an Indian Air Force (IAF) flying contingent at the King Fahd Air Base in Taif.The mission, comprising more than 100 high-ranking IAF officers and airmen onboard Sukhoi MKI fighter...
RIYADH: A tripartite agreement among the National Handicraft Program, Prisons Department and the Technical and Vocational Training Corp. (TVTC) was recently signed in the presence of Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tou...
JEDDAH: British authorities have opened investigations into the plane crash that led to the death of three members of the Binladin family.Investigations depend on the black box which registers the entire plane’s data, including speed, position of mob...
JAZAN: In a tragic accident, a speeding fuel truck caused four deaths and injuries to many people when it collided head on with five cars on the northern entrance of Abu Areesh area of Jazan, according to a website.The truck deviated from its path an...
JEDDAH: Municipal and Rural Affairs Minister Abdul Lateef Al-Asheikh has directed all the municipal authorities to closely scrutinize the election candidates’ credentials to thwart violation of rules.This is to ensure that the candidates meet all the...
Mohammed Mokammel Hossain, labor consul, Bangladesh Consulate, Jeddah * Which particular aspect of Saudi Arabia you like the most? Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.* Can you tell us your favorite and oft-repeated Arabic word? Insha’Allah. * W...
RIYADH: Expatriates feel Saudi Arabia is a safer place than their home countries despite the fact that the Kingdom is leading a war against the Yemeni rebels and other terror organizations and a couple of suicide attacks in the recent past. Mahmoud T...
RIYADH: The maximum medical policy or contract for visitors is SR100,000, which covers expenses on emergency treatment, maternity charges, traffic accident injuries, dialysis and medical treatment in or outside the Kingdom. Making the above announce...
JEDDAH: The city and its surrounding areas sweltered on Monday, with the maximum temperature rising to 44 degree Celsius and relative humidity being recorded at 85 percent. The weather department has forecast a similar situation in Jeddah on Tuesday....
JEDDAH: A National Academy for Energy in Dammam and a private technical technical college, both exclusively for women, will be opened in the Easter Province.The General Organization of Technical and Vocational Training is in the process of implementi...
AL-AHSA: Masjid Joatha or Joatha Mosque is a center of attraction in Al-Ahsa with many visitors and tourists thronging the place of worship, which was believed to have been built in the seventh year of Hijri (629 AD).The mosque has been restored as p...

Stay Connected

Facebook