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Damage around Tikrit, Destruction in Mosul

March 17, 2015

Over the past two weeks a large number of media reports have appeared suggesting ISIS has destroyed many historical sites in Iraq as well as a number of mosques and churches in Mosul. Here I will continue to monitor the situation and confirm what I can as I am able.

al-Khidr Mosque, Mosul

Undated photo of al-Khidr Mosque. (source)

Undated photo of al-Khidr Mosque. (source)

The al-Khidr Mosque was built in 1133 along the Tigris River in Mosul. Named in honor of the Islamic figure Khidr, the interior of the mosque features Islamic art and not much that ISIS would objectively find haram except that Khidr is a beloved figure in Sufi Islam, and ISIS has frequently destroyed Sufi shrines wherever they find them.

ISIS destroyed the mosque on February 26 or 27, around the same time the Mosul Museum video was released.

Recent photograph of the al-Khidr Mosque. (source)

Recent photograph of the al-Khidr Mosque. (source)

al-Khidr Mosque after its destruction. (source)

al-Khidr Mosque after its destruction. (source)

A video tour of the mosque (in Arabic) is available on YouTube from the Waqf of Mosul:

Palace of Ashnas, 9.5 km north of Samarra

AshnasGoogleThe Palace of Ashnas, a fortress which once belonged to a 9th-century AD Turkman general, appears to have been defended by ISIS during the ongoing battle of Tikrit.

Their position was attacked by fighters of the Shia militia Kata’ib Hezbollah, who released a video of their assault:

Attacks appear to be made through a pre-existing gap in the walls.

Ashnas1At another gap it is not immediately clear if the gap is recent or if the wall was breached for the assault. The soil in front of the gap appears to be freshly disturbed:

Ashnas2This gap appears at the far right of the wall in the video. Compare with the Google Earth image above and it is apparent that the Kata’ib Hezbollah forces attacked the palace from the north, which would mean the gap seen above is the gap on the far east side of the wall on the Google Earth image. Close examination of the wall in the Google earth image shows that there is an arch still standing over the gap.

The Google Earth image was taken on June 13, 2010. Either the arch collapsed sometime in the past five years, or it was destroyed during the recent battle. The freshly disturbed dirt and mudbrick in the above image would indicate the latter is more likely.

At 9:32 of the video an RPG round or something similar impacts on part of the wall:

Ashnas3 Ashnas4Overall with the exception of the arch it seems the palace of Ashnas got off lightly. No airstrikes were used during the assault, and heavy mud-brick walls are some of the most bullet-resistant material in existence. Towards the end of the video several heavy howitzers, 120mm mortars, an M1 Abrams tank, a jeep-mounted multiple-launch rocket system and some sort of truck-launched heavy rocket are shown in use but they do not seem to be used to fire on the fort itself.

Saddam Hussein’s Tomb, al-Awja


Interior of Saddam Hussein’s tomb. (source)

After his execution in 2006, Saddam was buried in his hometown of al-Awja just south of Tikrit, where his tomb became something of a shrine dedicated to Baathist nostalgia.

During the course of the ongoing battle of Tikrit, an Iraqi soldier uploaded this video to YouTube showing Saddam Hussein’s tomb in ruins.

It was reported last August that ISIS had destroyed the tomb as part of their general campaign against shrines, but others reported it had only been looted. Iraqi media reported last year that his body had been removed from the tomb and hidden elsewhere. There are also reports that ISIS fighters booby-trapped a number of buildings in al-Awja around the tomb. It is not known at this time who destroyed the tomb.

UPDATE: Footage from an Italian news program dated November 17, 2014 (see 2:25 mark) shows the tomb in a similar state of destruction, indicating it was probably destroyed some time ago.

Last December, the tomb of Saddam Hussein’s father was reported to have been destroyed by ISIS.

St. George Monastery, Mosul


St. George’s Monastery, looking north. (source)

St. George’s monastery, a 10th century AD Catholic monastery on the northwestern edge of Mosul, was rumored to have been targeted last November, although it was actually the adjacent Convent of the Sacred Heart which was destroyed.

Today, ISIS released photographs showing its fighters removing crosses from the monastery, placing an ISIS flag on the roof, breaking crosses off of graves, tearing down art, and defacing statues of Mary and St. George.

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While none of the art in these images is ancient, and none of the pieces appear to be particularly noteworthy, this is another case of ISIS attempting to erase the cultural and religious heritage of Iraq’s Christian minorities and create a world where there is no material evidence of anything but ISIS’ own interpretation of Islam.

Article © Christopher Jones 2015.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Laguerre permalink
    March 17, 2015 8:09 AM

    Thanks very much for your work in documenting the situation.

    “the interior of the mosque features Islamic art and not much that ISIS would objectively find haram except that Khidr is a beloved figure in Sufi Islam”

    You haven’t understood the programme of ISIS. Having a Wahhabi doctrine, firstly they are opposed to heretics, and secondly, as part of “tawhid”, which forbids any intermediary between Man and God, they are against the cult of saints. That is why the tombs of saints have been blown up, and the crooked minaret in Mosul has survived.


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