The Iraqi military on Thursday (June 29th) announced the recapture of the iconic Mosul mosque where "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public appearance, calling on Muslims to obey him.
The announcement of the recapture of the mosque -- which ISIS blew up last week as Iraqi forces closed in -- comes three years to the day after the extremists declared a "caliphate" straddling Iraq and Syria.
"Counter-Terrorism Service forces control al-Nuri mosque and al-Hadba (minaret)," the Joint Operations Command said in a statement.
After a senior special forces commander said the mosque had not in fact been retaken, the operations command clarified that it meant Iraqi forces had isolated the area and were "advancing toward the completion of the goals".
The mosque and its famed al-Hadba (hunchback) leaning minaret were Mosul landmarks and also held major significance in the history of ISIS rule in Iraq.
Al-Baghdadi appeared at Friday prayers at al-Nuri mosque in 2014, soon after ISIS seized Iraq's second city, calling on Muslims to obey him.
The jihadists blew up the mosque and minaret on June 21st as they put up increasingly desperate resistance to the advance of Iraqi forces.
Officials from Iraq and the international coalition said the destruction of the site was a sign of the jihadist group's imminent loss of Mosul, with Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi calling it an "official declaration of defeat".
The loss of the iconic 12th century minaret -- one of the country's most recognisable monuments sometimes referred to as Iraq's Tower of Pisa -- left the country in shock.
But the destruction had been widely anticipated, with commanders saying ISIS would not have allowed Iraqi forces to score a hugely symbolic victory by recapturing the site.
The mosque in Mosul's Old City was the latest in a long list of priceless heritage and historical monuments destroyed by ISIS during its three-year rule over swathes of Iraq and Syria.
The minaret, which was completed in 1172 and had been listing for centuries, is featured on Iraq's 10,000-dinar banknote and was the main symbol of Iraq's second city -- giving its name to countless restaurants, companies and even sports clubs in Mosul.
The mosque's destruction came three days after government forces launched an assault on the Old City, the last district of Mosul still under ISIS control.
About 100,000 residents are believed to still be trapped in the district by ISIS, which has been using civilians as human shields.
The area still controlled by the extremists is small but its narrow streets and the presence of so many civilians has made the operation perilous.