Abdullatif Al-Humaym, the head of Sunni Muslim endowments in all of Iraq, 2nd right, places the cornerstone for the rebuilding of the Great Mosque of Al-Nuri in Mosul’s war-ravaged Old City, Dec. 16, 2018.
Abdullatif Al-Humaym, the head of Sunni Muslim endowments in all of Iraq, 2nd right, places the cornerstone for the rebuilding of the Great Mosque of Al-Nuri in Mosul’s war-ravaged Old City, Dec. 16, 2018.

An Iraqi Sunni Muslim leader laid the cornerstone Sunday in the first step to rebuild the iconic 11th-century al-Nuri mosque in Mosul.

Three years of fighting between Islamic State and Iraqi forces left the structure in ruins.

All that remains is the stone gate, the green graffiti-covered dome, and part of the base of the minaret.

UAE to Fund $50.4M Project to Rebuild Mosul's Grand Al-Nuri Mosque

United Nations officials and European ambassadors joined Iraqi political and religious leaders for Sunday's cornerstone-laying ceremony.

The United Arab Emirates donated more than $50 million to the rebuilding project, which is expected to take at least five years.

After centuries of serving as a place for Muslims to worship, the al-Nuri mosque became the site of a much darker period in Iraqi history: It was where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stood and declared an Islamic State caliphate after his terrorist fighters overran Mosul in 2014.

There was little left of the mosque after the Islamic State was defeated. UNESCO's representative in Iraq, Louise Haxthausen, called its destruction a "moment of horror and despair."