Four years after ISIS, reconstruction of Mosul sites remains a priority

The UAE and UN are working to restore the city's Al Nuri Mosque and cultural heritage sites

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Four years after Mosul's Al Nuri Mosque was blown up by ISIS, the Iraqi government, the UN, the UAE and the EU remain committed to efforts to restore the city's identity and cultural heritage.

The 12th century mosque and its famous leaning minaret were destroyed by ISIS in 2017 as government forces closed in on the last fighters from the terrorist group that once controlled the city and much of north-west Iraq.

"Four years after the destruction of Mosul, Unesco, the UAE and the European Union are working to safeguard the city's heritage through the construction of landmark monuments," said Unesco, the UN's cultural agency.

“The heritage of Mosul is a history of the entire world.

"We are restoring Al Hadba Minaret, which once defined the city's skyline, and rebuilding Al Nuri Mosque complex as a haven of peace and reconciliation."

Unesco launched the project in 2018 to "revive the spirit of Mosul'' by focusing on restoring its religious heritage.

Plans included rebuilding Al Nuri Mosque, the 800-year-old Al Tahera Church and Al Saa'a Monastery.

The Emirates donated $50.4 million to fund the project, which will also create employment and training opportunities for local residents.

It is the first country to restore Christian churches in Iraq that were destroyed by ISIS.

Pope Francis visited Mosul in March and brought further attention to the need to restore Iraq's damaged landmarks.

The pontiff stood amid the rubble left behind by ISIS and declared hope to be "more powerful than hatred and peace more powerful than war".

He visited the northern city to encourage the healing of sectarian wounds and to pray for those killed by the extremists.

ISIS captured Mosul in 2014 and the group's leader at the time, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, was standing in the mosque when he announced he had established a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

While the extremists occupied large areas of the country, many people say the city's residents faced the full extent of the group's tyrannical rule.

By the end of 2017, Mosul had been devastated as government forces battled to regain control of the city from the terrorists.

The fighting in western Mosul was particularly fierce.

It took US-backed Iraqi fighters and anti-ISIS coalition forces nine months to kill or capture the last ISIS fighters making a stand in the neighbourhood.