Islamic State blows up landmark Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul
Islamic State militants blew up on Wednesday the Grand al-Nuri Mosque of Mosul and its leaning minaret, an Iraqi military statement said, Reuters reported.
It was from this medieval mosque that the militants' leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a self-styled ''caliphate'' spanning parts of Syria and Iraq three years ago.
Islamic State's Amaq news agency accused American aircraft of destroying the mosque.
"The Daesh (Islamic State) terror gangs committed another historical crime by blowing up the al-Nuri mosque and its historical al-Hadba minaret," the Iraqi military statement said, .
The explosions happened as Iraq's elite Counter Terrorism Service units, which have been battling their way through Mosul's Old City, got to within 50 meters (164 ft) of the mosque, the statement said.
Iraqi forces earlier on Wednesday said they had started a push towards the mosque. A U.S.-led coalition is providing air and ground support to the Mosul offensive which began in October 2016.
The forces had encircled on Tuesday the jihadist group's stronghold in the Old City, the last district under their control in Mosul.
Al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself "caliph", or ruler of all Muslims, from the pulpit of the mosque on July 4, 2014, after the insurgents overran parts of Iraq and Syria. His black flag had been flying over its leaning minaret since June 2014.