Iraq lays cornerstone to rebuild iconic Mosul mosque

A picture taken on December 16, 2018, shows the Great Mosque of Al-Nuri and “Al-Hadba” leaning minaret in Mosul’s war-ravaged Old City, during the placing of the corner stone ceremony. (AFP)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Iraq lays cornerstone to rebuild iconic Mosul mosque

  • More than a year after Daesh lost control of Mosul, the iconic mosque still lies in ruins
  • In June 2014, it became infamous as the site where Baghdadi declared Daeh’s “caliphate” just days after the extremists seized Mosul in a lightning assault

MOSUL: Iraqis on Sunday laid the cornerstone in rebuilding Mosul’s Al-Nuri mosque and leaning minaret, national emblems destroyed last year in the ferocious battle against Daesh.
The famed 12th century mosque and minaret, dubbed Al-Hadba or “the hunchback,” hosted Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s only public appearance as Daesh chief, when he declared a self-styled “caliphate” after the militants swept into Mosul in 2014.
The structures were ravaged three years later in the final, most brutal stages of the months-long fight to rid Iraq’s second city of Daesh.
On Sunday, dozens of government officials, religious figures, United Nations representatives and European ambassadors gathered in the large square in front of the battered mosque to see the foundation laid.
Abdullatif Al-Humaym, the head of Sunni Muslim endowments in Iraq, set down the stone in a simple ceremony.
It bore a black Arabic inscription: “This cornerstone for the rebuilding and restoration of the Al-Hadba minaret and the Great Al-Nuri Mosque was laid on December 16, 2018.”
More than a year after Daesh lost control of Mosul, the iconic mosque still lies in ruins. The stone gate leading up to its courtyard and the greenish dome now covered in graffiti are virtually the only parts still erect.
All that is left of the minaret is part of its rectangular base, the rest of it sheared off by fighting.
Abu Bakr Kenaan, head of Sunni Muslim endowments in Nineveh province, told AFP remnants of the minaret would be preserved, while other parts of the mosque would be built afresh, along with a museum about its history and adjacent homes.
The five-year project will be financed by a $50.4 million (44.6 million euro) donation from the United Arab Emirates.
The first year will focus on documenting and clearing the site, while the next four years will see the physical restoration, the UN’s heritage agency UNESCO has said.
The mosque’s destruction “was a moment of horror and despair,” said UNESCO Iraq representative Louise Haxthausen.
“Today as we lay the foundation stone of the Nuri mosque, we are starting a journey of physical reconstruction,” she told those gathered.
The mosque takes its name from Nureddin Al-Zinki, who ordered it built in 1172 after unifying Syria and parts of northern Iraq.
Its cylindrical minaret, which featured several levels of ornamental brickwork capped by a small white dome, started listing centuries ago.
It is featured on Iraq’s 10,000-dinar banknote and gave its name to countless restaurants, companies and even sports clubs.
But in June 2014, it became infamous as the site where Baghdadi declared Daesh’s “caliphate” just days after the militants seized Mosul in a lightning assault.
That capture prompted three years of ferocious fighting to wrest back Mosul and other Iraqi cities overrun by Daesh.
In June 2017, as Iraqi forces closed in on a shrinking Daesh-held pocket in Mosul’s Old City, the militants blew up both the Al-Nuri mosque and its leaning minaret.
Daesh itself blamed a US-led strike for the destruction.
When the rest of the Old City fell back under state control, Iraqi forces celebrated at the mosque, holding Daesh’s black flag upside down and tauntingly calling out, “Where is Baghdadi?“


Boat with migrants rescued off Libya looks for port to dock

Updated 20 January 2019
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Boat with migrants rescued off Libya looks for port to dock

  • Sea-Watch 3 asked where it can bring the 47 migrants it had taken aboard

ROME: A private rescue boat with dozens of migrants aboard sought permission for a second day to enter a safe port Sunday, but said so far its queries to several nations haven’t succeeded. Another vessel crowded with migrants and taking on water, meanwhile, put out an urgent, separate appeal for help in the southern Mediterranean.
Sea-Watch 3, run by a German NGO, said Sunday it has contacted Italy, Malta, Libya as well as the Netherlands, since the boat is Dutch-flagged, asking where it can bring the 47 migrants it had taken aboard. Sea-Watch tweeted that Libyan officials had hung up when it asked for a port assignment.
An Italian state TV reporter aboard Sea-Watch 3 said the rescue took place Saturday about 50 kilometers (30 miles) off the coast west of Tripoli in Libya’s search-and-rescue area. Libya-based human traffickers launch flimsy or rickety boats, crowded with migrants hoping to reach Europe and its opportunities for better lives.
Separately, Sea-Watch tweeted Sunday afternoon that it had been urgently contacted by a boat with 100 migrants aboard that said it was taking on water, 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) from the current location at sea of Sea-Watch 3.
The distressed vessel reported navigational problems and had among the migrants a child “unconscious or deceased,” Sea-Watch said. Subsequent communication said the boat was “taking in water” and asked Sea-Watch to call for help, “regardless of what this would mean concerning a possible return to Libya,” Sea-Watch said.
The aid group later said Malta on the phone confirmed “that they will come back to us” regarding the distress call, but it wasn’t immediately clear what kind of assistance the Maltese might give.
Migrants dread the prospect of being returned to Libya, where they have reported torture including beatings and rapes in overcrowded detention centers.
The governments of Malta and Italy have been refusing to allow private rescue boats rescuing migrants to dock. Both contend that in recent years they have taken in many migrants rescued at sea and that fellow European Union nations must agree to take their share of these asylum-seekers.
Earlier this month, Malta transferred to land 49 migrants who had been aboard Sea-Watch 3 as long as 19 days but refused the boat port entry. They were allowed to set foot on the southern Mediterranean island only after an EU-brokered deal found several countries willing to take them as well as other migrants, who had been rescued at sea earlier in separate operations by Malta.