Islamic State still a threat as Mosul
residents return to city in ruins
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[August 10, 2017]
By Raya Jalabi
MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - Abu Ghazi stood
smoking a cigarette outside what used to be his home in Mosul's Old
City, where only the sound of the footsteps of a few soldiers on patrol
and twisted pieces of metal and fabric flapping in the wind disturb the
"They should just bulldoze the whole thing and start over," he said,
gazing at the rows of collapsed buildings with their contents strewn
across the upturned streets.
"There's no saving it now, not like this."
Hundreds of yards away on Wednesday Federal Police shot dead a senior
Islamic State judicial officer after storming an underground tunnel
where he was hiding, on Makkawi Street.
Similar stories have been reported by aid workers and residents of West
Mosul in the past few days.
"West Mosul is still a military zone as the search operations are
ongoing for suspects, mines and explosive devices," a military spokesman
"The area is still not safe for the population to return."
However, in nearby Dawrat al Hammameel, with machines whirring in his
workshop, Raad Abdelaziz said he has encouraged neighbors to return
despite the still very real danger weeks after the government declared
victory over the jihadists.
Just this week, his nephew, Ali, saw a militant emerge from under a
house and try to injure some civilians before he was caught and handed
over to the Federal Police.
But Abdelaziz, whose factory was up and running just two weeks after he
returned to Mosul with his family, persists: We want people in the
neighborhood to come back to their jobs."
He is already filling orders for water and gas tanks from residents
intent on rebuilding. "Life is already coming back gradually," he said.
FLOCKING OVER THE PONTOON
Like Abu Ghazi and Raad Abdelaziz, dozens of those displaced by the
fighting have returned to West Mosul, which saw some of the fiercest
fighting in nine-month battle to rout the militants from their
stronghold in Iraq's second-largest city.
At the northern pontoon, one of two remaining access points between East
and West Mosul, hundreds walked toward the western half of the city,
carrying suitcases, household goods and livestock. Others drove across
the makeshift bridge in overflowing coaches.
About 230,000 people cannot hope to return "anytime soon" as their homes
in West Mosul were completely destroyed, the United Nation's
Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said at a briefing in Geneva on
[to top of second column]
A member of Iraqi federal police patrols in the destroyed Old City
of Mosul, Iraq August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
The city had a pre-war population of more than two million.
Ziad al Chaichi came back to reopen his tea shop in West Mosul a
week ago, having fled his nearby home in March.
"Everything's still a mess – we have nothing. No water, no
electricity – we need the essentials," he said in his shop where
dainty porcelain tea pots hung from the walls. He was thankful that
some people were buying his tea, including Abdelfattah, a neighbor
who sat with a group of men outside.
"We want life to return here," said Abdelfattah, 60, who came back
to a partially collapsed home with his family about three weeks ago.
"Not for us - the older generation - but for the children... Until
then, we're just sitting here patiently, drinking tea."
Even in death, the militants haunt Mosul's residents.
A handful of their bodies are lying around the Old City, a pungent
reminder of the last ten months.
"We wish they would just take them away," said Najm Abdelrazaq. But
unlike with civilian bodies, the police and the military refuse to
allow it, he said.
"Why should we dignify them and remove the bodies?" one soldier
said, when asked why the bodies were being left to rot in the 47
degree Celsius (116 Fahrenheit) heat. "Let them rot in the streets
of Mosul after what they did here."
Returnees are concerned about the smell and the risk of disease, but
they'd rather have the bodies of their neighbors recovered first.
Around the corner from Chaichi's shop, scrawled across several
collapsed houses in blue ink was: "The bodies of families lie here
under the rubble."
(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva. Editing by
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