Syria: Umayyad Mosque’s minaret destroyed in clashes
Syria’s civil war has cost more than 70,000 lives and has also damaged or destroyed many archaeological and architectural treasures, some of them United Nations world heritage sites, such as Aleppo’s Old City where the mosque is located.
The opposing parties yesterday blamed each other for the toppling of the minaret, which predated the medieval-era mosque it stood in.
Fighting has ravaged the Old City’s stone-vaulted alleyways for months and had reduced much of the mosque to rubble.
State news agency Sana accused the Jabhat al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda-linked rebel group, of bringing down the minaret.
Opposition groups said army tank fire was to blame.
The conflict in Syria, now in its third year, threatens ancient castles and Roman ruins across the country.
Islamist rebel units said yesterday they had launched an offensive on the coastal province of Latakia, a move which could further stoke sectarian tensions in a war that has increasingly divided the country along religious and ethnic lines.
The coast is a stronghold of Mr Assad’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. Alawites have dominated Syria’s power structures during four decades of Assad family rule.
Rebels, mostly from the Sunni Muslim majority, have seized territory in northern and southern Syria, and hold about half of Aleppo, the country’s biggest city. Mr Assad’s forces have kept control of the capital Damascus and other main cities.