Islamic State blows up 'Jonah's tomb' in Iraq

Friday 25 July 2014 16.56
Militants from Islamic State destroyed a holy site in Mosul said to be the tomb of Jonah
Militants from Islamic State destroyed a holy site in Mosul said to be the tomb of Jonah

Militants from Islamic State have destroyed a holy site in Mosul said to be the tomb of Jonah, famous for being swallowed by a whale in both Islamic and Judeo-Christian traditions. 

The Nabi Yunus shrine was built on the reputed burial site of a prophet known in the Koran as Yunus and in the Bible as Jonah.

Jonah was said to have been swallowed by a fish or a whale for three days and nights.

"Islamic State completely destroyed the shrine of Nabi Yunus after telling local families to stay away and closing the roads to a distance of 500 metres from the shrine," said an official at the Sunni endowment, which manages Sunni religious affairs in Iraq.

The endowment official and Mosul residents said it took the militants an hour to rig the shrine with explosives.

"They first stopped people from praying in it, they fixed explosive charges around and inside it and then blew it up in front of a large gathering of people," said a witness.

The endowment official said the Islamic State jihadist group that overran large swathes of northern and western Iraq last month have now destroyed or damaged 30 shrines, as well as 15 husseiniyas and mosques in and around Mosul.

Husseiniyas are Shia places of worship that are also used as community centres.

The official listed the most notable losses to Muslim heritage as being the shrines of Imam Yahya Ibn al-Qassem, Aoun al-Din and Nabi Danial.

"But the worst destruction was of Nabi Yunus, which has been turned to dust," he said.

The Islamic State late last month proclaimed a "caliphate" spanning parts of Iraq and Syria. 

The group aims to create an approximation of society as it was in the early days of Islam, which was founded in the 7th century, and considers Muslims who do not adhere to its puritanical version of the religion heretics.