Mosul has always been known as a
city where Sunni Muslims, Christians, Shabaks, Arabs, Kurds, Assyrians,
Armenians and Turkmens all co-existed, sometimes uneasily. It had more
than 40 churches and monasteries at the time of the allied invasion of
Some had already been damaged by the time of the Isil takeover two years ago, including the Clock Church in a 2006 bombing.
The money for the tower was given by the Empress Eugenie as a reward
for the Dominican friars' attempts to end an outbreak of typhoid in the
Isil are under pressure in Mosul, with Kurdish forces to the north
and Iraqi government and Shia militia forces to the south threatening to
launch a bid to retake it.
The US-led coalition has also been bombing Isil strongpoints in the
city for months, including the university, which it has taken over as a
However, there has also been an outbreak of fighting between Kurdish
troops and Shia militias south-east of the city, and in-fighting in
Iraq's fractious politics makes a concerted attack unlikely any time