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Minaret Of Iconic Syrian Mosque Destroyed In Fighting

At left, the damaged Umayyad mosque in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria, on Wednesday; at right, the view of the mosque with the minaret intact on March 6.
At left, the damaged Umayyad mosque in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria, on Wednesday; at right, the view of the mosque with the minaret intact on March 6.

The latest casualty of the Syrian war: the minaret of the famed 11th century Umayyad Mosque, a UNESCO world heritage site.

The minaret collapsed Wednesday amid fighting between government troops and Syrian rebels in the ancient city of Aleppo.

Each side accused the other of being responsible for the damage. In a statement, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova expressed her deep distress over the destruction.

"This is like blowing up the Taj Mahal or destroying the Acropolis in Athens. This mosque is a living sanctuary," Helga Seeden, a professor of archaeology at the American University of Beirut, told The Associated Press. "This is a disaster. In terms of heritage, this is the worst I've seen in Syria. I'm horrified."

The mosque had been damaged during fighting in the ancient city in October 2012. As Rasha Elass reported on NPR's All Things Considered at that time, the mosque has a storied history:

"It dates back at least to Hellenistic times, and it served as a temple to the Aramaic god of rain. Later, it became a Roman temple, then a church and, finally, early in the 8th century, a mosque — one of the most important sites in the Muslim world today."

Modern Aleppo, Syria's commercial capital, has been badly affected by Syria's civil war. As NPR's Deborah Amos reported last month, the city "now suffers from shortages of water, flour and electricity and widespread destruction. Disease is rampant because of festering piles of garbage.

"President Bashar Assad's military launches bombing runs and ballistic missile strikes almost daily."

Syria is home to six sites on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. An earlier UNESCO statement noted that some of the other sites had also been damaged.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.