ISIS Closes Off Area Around Key Mosul Mosque, Preparing for Major Fight

Iraqi Commanders See Mosque as Huge Symbolic Target

Over the course of Ramadan, the fighting in Western Mosul is expected to increasingly center around the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, an ancient and religiously important mosque that was used for the site of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declaring the ISIS caliphate back in 2014.

Iraqi officials say they believe that capturing the mosque, which is in the ISIS-held Old City, especially during Ramadan, would by hugely symbolic and a sign of their impending defeat across Iraq. ISIS is anticipating this, and is said to be closing off the area around the mosque and positioning fighters in the area.

Experts are warning that heavy fighting could put the mosque and its famous leaning minaret at risk to sustaining serious damage. The mosque was originally built in the 1150s at the order of Nureddin, an important regional ruler in 12th century territory held by the Seljuk Turks.

Official reports appear to be presenting this as the “final battle” in Mosul, despite ISIS still controlling substantial territory around the Old City. In reality, the fighting at the mosque is largely religious grand-standing on both sides, and purely symbolic on the ground.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of