BAGHDAD: Militants from ISIS blew up a revered Muslim shrine traditionally said to be the burial place of the Prophet Jonah in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, Thursday, residents of the city said.
The residents said the militants first ordered everyone out of the Prophet Younis Mosque, or Jonah, then blew it up. The mosque was built on an archaeological site dating back to eighth century B.C. and is said to be the burial place of the prophet, who in stories from both the Bible and Quran is swallowed by a whale.
It was renovated in the 1990s under Saddam Hussein and until the recent ISIS-led blitz, 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 the militants claimed the mosque had become a place for apostasy, not prayer. The extremists Thursday also blew up another mosque nearby , the Imam Aoun bin al-Hasan Mosque.
Separately, the U.N. said that ISIS has ordered all women between the ages of 11 and 46 to undergo female genital mutilation, but experts quickly cast doubt on the claim.
The U.N.’s second most senior official in Iraq, Jacqueline Badcock, told reporters in Geneva via videoconference: “It is a fatwa from ISIS, we learned about it this morning.”
But several experts have speculated that the fatwa may have been a hoax, and a number of journalists said on Twitter that their contacts in Iraq had not heard of it being issued.
Charles Lister, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center and expert on Iraqi and Syrian extremist groups, said the U.N. claim appeared to be based on a “quite clearly faked statement” that began circulating online Wednesday.