ISIS Militants Demolish Jonah's Tomb in Iraq

Mosque of Younis (2006) Photo: Josef Hadi via Wikimapia

Mosque of Younis (2006)
Photo: Josef Hadi via Wikimapia

Members of the militant islamist group ISIS or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are continuing their rampage against Iraqi cultural heritage sites. Video released on Thursday (see below) purports to show the destruction of the Mosque of Younis, located in Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, being demolished. The destruction was later confirmed by multiple sources. The Sunni mosque was an important shrine, known as the burial place of the Prophet Jonah, a figure present in both the Judeo-Christian and Muslim traditions for having been swallowed by a whale or giant fish.

Reports at the beginning of this month speculated that the mosque had already been destroyed but were later discredited. According to Arab News, ISIS militants took control of the mosque in June. On Thursday, they are said to have reentered the structure, telling everyone inside to leave before placing explosives around its perimeter and detonating the bombs remotely.

The demolition is said to be part of ISIS's campaign to destroy any shrine in Iraq that it finds not in line with its hard-line interpretation of Islam. According to residents who spoke with members of the AP after the blast, ISIS claimed that the mosque, despite being aligned with its own Sunni interpretation of Islam, had become a place of apostasy or religious denunciation rather than a holy site of prayer. The residents also said that several homes surrounding the mosque were damaged in the blast.

The mosque, which was located on an archaeological site from the eighth century BC, is the latest piece of Iraq's rich cultural heritage to be wiped out by the militants. The group typically posts images of its latest acts of destruction on Twitter. As artnet News previously reported, the Mosque of Younis is the latest of several Sunni sites to be destroyed this month. Last month, ISIS targeted mainly Shiite sites, including the Shia Saad bin Aqeel Husseiniya shrine in Tal Afar and Mosul's al-Qubba Husseiniya mosque.