A number of civilians and suspected Daesh members were killed in an attack that hit a mosque that was being attended by residents and damaged neighbouring houses in the west of the Iraqi city of Mosul yesterday, three residents said today.
The Omar Al-Aswad mosque, in the Al-Faruq district of the old city centre, was hit by an airstrike, three residents in the same area told Reuters by phone.
Neighbouring houses were damaged or collapsed because of the blast, they said without giving a precise estimate of the casualties as their moves are restricted by the militants and also Iraqi government shelling and aerial attacks.
The spokesman for the US-led coalition said that he was not aware of a strike targeting the mosque. Iraqi military media officers said the battle was ongoing and troops were targeting Daesh wherever they could, but did not say this specific mosque was targeted. However, the outright denial of the US-led coalition compared to the Iraqi response suggests Baghdad likely targeted the mosque.
The Iraqi government is predominantly Shia-led and controlled, and is highly influenced by regional Shia power Iran who holds sway over much of Iraq's internal affairs. An attack by a Shia-led force on a Sunni mosque could further inflame sectarian tensions and hatred.
When Daesh took over Mosul in 2014, it ordered Iraqi police and armed forces members who remained in the city to go to the same mosque. They had to surrender their weapons and register in the group's database, in return for a mandatory pass to prevent their arrest and execution at the militants' check points.
Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in early February after almost four months of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris River on 19 February.
If they defeat Daesh in Mosul, that would crush the Iraqi wing of the caliphate declared by the group's leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, in 2014 from the city's grand old Nuri mosque, located in the same area as the Omar Al-Aswad mosque. Though Daesh's territorial holdings will be almost entirely destroyed, the organisation itself will likely continue to wage war against Baghdad.