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Jun 29, 3:17 AM EDT

In Mosul, Iraqi forces push toward mosque blown up by IS

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AP Photo/Felipe Dana

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MOSUL, Iraq (AP) -- In their battle for Mosul, Iraqi forces are pushing toward a landmark mosque blown up last week by the Islamic State group.

Special forces Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi says his troops won't enter the destroyed al-Nuri Mosque complex since militants have likely rigged it with explosives but will work to secure the area.

Thursday's development comes as Iraqi forces are pushing through the last IS-held neighborhood in Mosul, the so-called Old City, to the west of the Tigris River.

The mosque is hugely symbolic - from its pulpit, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in July 2014 declared a self-styled "caliphate," encompassing territories held by IS in Syria and Iraq.

Iraqi and coalition officials say IS explosives destroyed the building while the militant group says a U.S. airstrike was to blame.

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