IS militants destroy ancient mosque in Mosul

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Updated 25 July 2014
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IS militants destroy ancient mosque in Mosul

BAGHDAD: Islamic extremist militants blew up a revered Muslim shrine traditionally said to be the burial place of the Prophet Jonah in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, on Thursday, residents of the city said.
The residents said the Islamic State militants, who overran Mosul in June and imposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law on the city, first ordered everyone out of the Mosque of the Prophet Younes, or Jonah, then blew it up.
The mosque was built on an archaeological site dating back to 8th century BC and is said to be the burial place of the prophet, who in stories from both the Bible and Qur’an is swallowed by a whale.
It was renovated in the 1990s under Iraq’s late dictator Saddam Hussein and until the recent militant blitz that engulfed Mosul, remained a popular destination for religious pilgrims from around the world.
Several nearby houses were also damaged by the blast, said the residents, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared for their own safety.
The residents told The Associated Press that the militants claimed the mosque had become a place for apostasy, not prayer. The extremists also blew up another mosque nearby on Thursday, Imam Aoun Bin Al-Hassan mosque, they said.
The attack came hours after Iraqi lawmakers elected veteran Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum as the nation’s new president, as they struggle to form a new government amid the militant blitz that has engulfed much of northern and western Iraq.
Iraq is facing its worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of US troops amid the blitz offensive last month by Al-Qaeda breakaway Islamic State group that captured large swaths of land in the country’s west and north, including Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul. The militants have also seized a huge chunk of territory straddling the Iraq-Syria border, and have declared a self-styled caliphate in the territory they control.


Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

Updated 55 min ago

Iran’s Hassan Rouhani may skip UN meet over US visa delay

TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his delegation could be forced into skipping next week’s UN General Assembly because the United States has yet to issue them visas, state media said Wednesday.
Rouhani and his delegation had been scheduled to travel to New York for the annual UN gathering on Monday, but that was now looking unlikely given the lack of visas, state news agency IRNA said.
“If the visas aren’t issued in a few hours, this trip will probably be canceled,” IRNA reported.
The delegation includes Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, who the United States imposed sanctions against on July 31.
The foreign minister had been due to travel to New York on Friday morning, according to IRNA.
The absence of Rouhani would ruin France’s bid to arrange a meeting between him and US President Donald Trump as part of European efforts to de-escalate tensions between the arch-foes.
“Iran’s absence will show that in contrast with its commitments to the United Nations and international organizations within the framework of agreements, diplomacy has no value for the United States,” IRNA said.
“Although the Islamic Republic of Iran has not left the scene and it continues its active diplomacy, the US government must answer for its behavior,” it added.
The UN General Assembly debate is due to begin on Tuesday.
As the host government, the United States generally is obliged to issue visas to diplomats who serve at UN headquarters.
But Iran and the United States have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions in its campaign of “maximum pressure.”
Iran responded by scaling back its commitments under the landmark accord, which gave it the promise of sanctions relief in return for limiting the scope of its nuclear program.