IS destroys famous al-Nuri mosque in Mosul
The Islamic State group destroyed the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul and the famous leaning minaret when fighters detonated explosives inside the structures, Iraq's Ministry of Defence has said.
The mosque - also known as Mosul's Great Mosque - is where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a so-called Islamic caliphate in 2014 shortly after the city was overrun by the militants and was seen as a key symbolic prize in the fight for Iraq's second largest city.
Iraqi forces launched a push into Mosul's Old City earlier this week where the last IS fighters are holed up with an estimated 100,000 civilians, according to the United Nations.
The fight to retake Mosul was launched more than eight months ago and has displaced more than 850,000 people.
The minaret that leaned like Italy's Tower of Pisa stood for more than 840 years.
In a statement posted online after the Ministry of Defence statement, IS claimed an airstrike carried out by the United States destroyed the mosque and minaret.
The US-led coalition rejected the IS claim.
A coalition spokesman, US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, told The Associated Press that coalition aerial surveillance confirmed the mosque was destroyed, but he said a US strike was not the cause.
"We did not conduct strikes in that area at that time," Mr Dillon said.
IS fighters initially attempted to destroy the minaret in July 2014.
The militants said the structure contradicted their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, but Mosul residents converged on the area and formed a human chain to protect it.
IS demolished dozens of historic and archaeological sites in and around Mosul, saying they promoted idolatry.
The mosque sat on the southern edge of the Old City, the last IS stronghold inside Mosul.
Earlier this month Mosul residents reported IS fighters began sealing off the area around the mosque.
Residents said IS fighters ordered families living in the area to evacuate in preparation for a final stand.
While Iraqi forces have experienced periods of swift gains, combat inside the city has been gruelling and deadly for both Iraqi forces and civilians.