Iraqi defense official: Militants have blown up Jonah’s tomb, revered Christian holy site
(CNN) — Militants have blown up Jonah’s tomb, a revered holy site in Mosul, Iraq, civil defense officials there told CNN on Thursday.
A video posted to YouTube appears to show the explosion and the moments immediately after. Dust and smoke fill the screen. CNN could not immediately confirm the video’s authenticity.
The shrine is thought to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale or fish in both the Islamic and Judeo-Christian traditions.
Militants belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, planted explosives around the tomb and detonated the explosion remotely, the officials in Mosul said.
The tomb was located inside a Sunni mosque called the Mosque of the Prophet Younis.
ISIS is waging war against the Iraqi government and has taken over several cities. It is seeking to create an Islamic caliphate that encompasses parts of Iraq and Syria and has begun imposing Sharia law in the towns it controls.
The group has threatened to destroy any shrine it deems un-Islamic.
Christian families fled Mosul this month after the al Qaeda splinter group issued an ultimatum to Iraqi Christians living there — either convert to Islam, pay a fine or face “death by the sword.”
ISIS has blown up several Sunni holy sites in the last few weeks in Mosul.
Last month, it destroyed seven Shiite places of worship in the predominantly Shiite Turkmen city of Tal Afar, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Mosul, Human Rights Watch has reported, citing local sources.
Meanwhile, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, was in Iraq on Thursday and met with senior Iraqi leaders across the political spectrum.
“In our conversations I reinforced the importance of quickly forming a government that is inclusive and representative of all Iraqis.
“I also underscored the point that, in the absence of political movement, any support the U.S. Government might consider providing could have only limited, short-term effects,” Austin said in a statement.
CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report.