Sunday, April 28, 2013

SYRIA CLASHES DESTROY ANCIENT ALEPPO MINARET AT UMAYYAD MOSQUE

The minaret of one of Syria's most famous mosques has been destroyed during clashes in the northern city of Aleppo.The state news agency Sana accused rebels of blowing up the 11th-Century minaret of the Umayyad Mosque. However, activists say the minaret was hit by Syrian army tank fire.

The mosque, which is a Unesco world heritage site, has been in rebel hands since earlier this year but the area around it is still contested.
Last October Unesco appealed for the protection of the site, which it described as "one of the most beautiful mosques in the Muslim world".
Images posted on the internet showed the minaret reduced to a pile of rubble in the mosque's tiled courtyard.

The Great Mosque, at the heart of the Old City of Aleppo, was founded by the Umayyad dynasty in 715 on the site of a Byzantine church. The mosque had to be rebuilt after being damaged by a fire in 1159, and again following the Mongol invasion in 1260. The oldest surviving part was the 45m (148ft) minaret, which dated back to 1090.

Unesco describes the world-heritage-listed mosque as one of the most beautiful in the Muslim world. The mosque was badly damaged by fire during heavy fighting in the Old City in October 2012.Other parts of the mosque complex - which dates mostly from the 12th Century - have been badly damaged by gunfire and shell hits.

The mosque has suffered extensive damage during months of fighting, with antique furnishings and intricately sculpted colonnades affected.
Reports say some ancient artifacts have also been looted, including a box purported to contain a strand of the Prophet Muhammad's hair.
However, rebels said they had salvaged ancient handwritten Koranic manuscripts and hidden them.

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