UN: Reconstruction of landmark Mosul mosque to begin in 2020

In this July 4, 2017, file photo, fleeing Iraqi civilians walk past the heavily damaged al-Nuri mosque as Iraqi forces continue their advance against Daesh militants in Iraq's Old City of Mosul. The United Nations' cultural agency says reconstruction of Al-Nouri Mosque in Iraq's city of Mosul is scheduled to start at the beginning of 2020. (AP)
Updated 11 September 2019

UN: Reconstruction of landmark Mosul mosque to begin in 2020

  • The 12th-century monument is famed for its leaning minaret
  • The mosque restoration plan will be the most eye-catching part of a $100 million UNESCO-led heritage reconstruction of Mosul

PARIS: The United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO announced Wednesday that a landmark reconstruction of Iraq’s Al-Nouri mosque in Mosul, which was blown up by the Daesh group in 2017, will start at the beginning of next year.
The timeline of the restoration plan of the 12th-century monument, famed for its leaning minaret, was hammered out during a meeting in Paris between UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay and several Iraqi officials, including Iraqi Culture Minister Abdulamir Al-Dafar Hamdani, and Mosul’s regional governor, Mansour Al-Mareed.
First launched in 2018, the mosque restoration plan will be the most eye-catching part of a $100 million UNESCO-led heritage reconstruction of Mosul.
“Revive the Spirit of Mosul” is the largest restoration plan in Iraqi history, and comes two years after the old city’s destruction at the hands of extremists.
“Today we agreed on a calendar, a precise calendar and plan of action to be mobilized on the ground in Iraq. ... The ongoing phase of structural consolidation and the critical phase of site-clearing and mine-clearing (has) to be achieved from now to the end of the year,” Azoulay told reporters.
“We’ve also agreed on a timetable that would see the reconstruction start in the first semester of 2020 for the mosque,” she added.
IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi declared an Islamic caliphate from the Al-Nouri mosque in the summer of 2014, only for IS extremists to blow it up in June 2017 as Iraqi forces closed in.
Two years after IS was evicted, Mosul is a city still very much in ruins with no meaningful international effort to rebuild — one that is still struggling with basic services like electricity, water and health care. The UN’s development program is working to restore private houses in the historic Old City. Most of its residents still reside in camps.
The UNESCO initiative goes far beyond the mere restoration of the mosque, and will see the cash be used to rebuild churches, schools and a street in Mosul’s Old City, which was famous for its bookshops.
The United Arab Emirates is providing $50.4 million to finance the project, focusing on the restoration of the mosque, with the European Union providing $24 million.
The decision to select Mosul, as opposed to other Iraqi cities, for a revamp owes to its particular history as a melting pot city.
“We’ve chosen Mosul as a symbol because Mosul was before the conflict a city of diversity, a city of tolerance — more than tolerance — a city where people lived together and knew each other beyond communities, beyond religious belongings,” Azoulay said.
She stressed that she’s asked that some of the $100 million go toward the rebuilding of a synagogue and Christian religious sites.


Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

Updated 16 September 2019

Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

  • Joint operations planned to prevent attacks ahead of polls

KABUL: Afghan forces backed by US forces killed two senior Taliban leaders and at least 38 fighters of the hard-line insurgent group in joint airstrikes conducted in northern and western regions of Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

The operations, launched on Saturday night, were aimed at foiling attacks planned by the Taliban on Afghan forces, said a senior security official in capital Kabul, adding that clashes have escalated following the collapse of diplomatic talks between the US and the Taliban.

The Defense Ministry in a statement said that the Taliban’s designate governor for northern Samangan province, Mawlavi Nooruddin, was killed along with four fighters in an airstrike in Dara-e-Soof Payeen district.

But the Taliban denied the governor had been killed.

“He (Nooruddin) is alive,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman said in a statement.

HIGHLIGHT

Taliban deny the governor of Samangan province had been killed.

Last week, insurgents killed four Afghan special force members in a car bomb blast.

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day.

In a separate incident, Mullah Sayed Azim, a Taliban designate governor for Anar Dara district in western Farah was killed in a joint Afghan and foreign force raid.

“Sayed Azim was killed along with 34 other insurgents in Anar Dara,” said Mohibullah Mohib, a spokesman for Farah provincial police.

Senior security officials in Kabul said several joint operations will be launched against Taliban and Daesh fighters to prevent attacks on Afghan forces and civilians ahead of the presidential polls on Sept. 28.

Fighting picked up in several parts of Afghanistan last week after US President Donald Trump’s abrupt cancelation of talks with the Taliban aimed at withdrawing US troops and opening the way to end to 18 year-long war in Afghanistan. 

 

Troops for polling day

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day. Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry said on Sunday that 72,000 security personnel will be on duty around the 4,942 polling centers across Afghanistan while nearly 30,000 additional troops will serve as reserve units.

Defense Ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai said security forces have recently taken back eight districts from the Taliban and that operations are underway to secure around 20 others.