The minaret of Aleppo’s ancient Umayyad mosque was destroyed on Wednesday, Syrian state media and a watchdog group reported, with the regime and rebels blaming each other.
“Terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra blow up the minaret of the Grand Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo,” Syrian state television reported, saying rebels were seeking to “accuse the Syrian Arab Army” of carrying out the attack.
Activists uploaded video shot at the scene, showing the collapsed minaret, and rebels in the area said the army was responsible.
“Tanks began firing in the direction of the minaret until it was destroyed,” one rebel said in a video uploaded on YouTube, insisting that rebel snipers were not stationed inside the minaret.
“We were afraid that it would be targeted,” he said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the collapse of the minaret at the mosque, in Aleppo’s Old City.
“The minaret of the Umayyad Mosque, around which violent clashes have raged in recent weeks, collapsed,” the group said.
There was no video immediately available showing the moment the minaret collapsed.
An archaeological treasure in Aleppo’s UNESCO-listed Old City, the mosque has been the center of fighting in recent months and already suffered extensive damage.
It recently came back into rebel hands, but has been left pockmarked by bullets and stained with soot.
Antique furnishings and intricately sculpted colonnades have been charred, valuable Islamic relics ransacked and ancient artifacts — including a box purported to contain a strand of the Prophet Mohammed’s hair — looted.
Rebels say they have managed to salvage ancient handwritten Koranic manuscripts and have hidden them.
04/24/2013 - AFP