Extremist corpses poison life in Iraq’s Mosul
Extremist corpses poison life in Iraq’s Mosul
The rare few who dare to venture into Mosul’s historic center do so with their nose and mouth firmly covered with masks or scarves to keep out the stench.
Amid the rubble-strewn alleys overlooking the River Tigris, unburied human remains are rotting.
They are the bodies of Daesh extremists, residents and the civil defense say, pointing to their Afghan robes, long beards, and sometimes even suicide belts.
Here and there, on a wall or on a road sign, are scribbled the words “Cemetery for the people of Daesh.”
The extremists seized second city Mosul in July 2014, imposing their rigid interpretation of Islam on inhabitants and dispensing brutal punishments for those who did not obey.
Iraqi forces declared victory against Daesh in the city in July 2017, after months of fighting that killed hundreds of civilians and caused tens of thousands to flee.
But six months on, the putrefying bodies of extremists killed in the battle are preventing some residents from returning home.
Othman Ahmad, an unemployed 35-year-old, said he would not go back to living in the Old City with his wife and two children as long as the corpses remained.
“We’re scared with all these bodies and this awful smell,” he told AFP, in an alley not far from his former home, now barely recognizable after the destruction.
Not far off, Abu Shaker, 60, said he was terrified the bodies might lead to “germs and epidemics.”
But civil defense teams say it is not their job to remove the corpses of Daesh militants.
Their mission, which ended on January 10, was to extract the bodies of civilians from the rubble so their families could bury them.
For months on end, during and after the battle, they retrieved the remains of men, women and children and carried them away in black body bags.
There is no official death toll for civilians killed in the battle for Mosul, but the United Nations and a monitoring group have said hundreds were killed.
Extracting the bodies was gruelling work, as rescue teams could not enter the Old City’s narrow alleyways with their vehicles or heavy equipment.
“To dig, we’d use light tools and our bare hands, so getting bodies out took a lot of effort and time,” the civil defense’s Lt. Col. Rabie Ibrahim said.
Whenever they were alerted, his colleagues said, civil defense members dashed out to search the ruins, tackling the mounds of broken concrete that now covers the Old City.
To avoid having to bury unidentified bodies, they only searched in the company of relatives able to identify those they had lost.
As for the bodies of Iraqi and foreign extremists, it is the city council’s responsibility.
“We have already brought 450 out of the rubble, but there are hundreds more,” city council head of services Abdel Sattar Al-Habbu said.
Those bodies have been thrown into mass graves, without any rites.
Removing them is slow, he said, because the extremists stole and destroyed most of their equipment.
And some bodies still carry undetonated explosives that the security forces did not defuse.
But time is pressing, said Hossam Eddine Al-Abar, of the Mosul region’s provincial council.
“The bodies have to be moved before it rains and the Tigris rises, taking with it the bodies rotting on its banks,” he said.
If the river became contaminated, it would be impossible to treat its water as filtering and purifying stations around the city have been destroyed, either by the extremists or in the battle to retake the city.
A doctor, who asked to remain anonymous, said no case of contaminated water had been reported so far.
But the rotting bodies “pollute the air and water and could soon cause diseases,” he said.
Ahmad Ibrahim, a gastroenterologist, said the river’s entire ecosystem could soon be contaminated if nothing was done.
“These diseases can develop now, or they can appear in coming years,” he said.
Russia ‘trying to help Syrian refugees to return home’
- A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west
- The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone
MOSCOW: The Russian Defense Ministry said it was coordinating efforts to help Syrian refugees return home and rebuild the country’s infrastructure destroyed by the civil war.
Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said in a conference call that included Russian and Syrian officials that work is underway to rebuild dozens of Syria’s power stations, schools and other vital institutions.
In Damascus, Syrian Public Administration Minister Hussein Makhlouf pledged the regime would protect refugee property rights and grant returning refugees a year’s deferral from military conscription.
“The Syrian government is working to simplify procedures for refugees who return, repair housing and try to create new jobs,” Makhlouf said, adding that the authorities were also working to streamline legislation to facilitate refugee returns.
He dismissed as hostile “propaganda” claims that some refugees were facing arrests on their return.
Makhlouf called on Western nations to drop their sanctions against Damascus, introduced early in the seven-year conflict, in order to help post-war restoration and encourage the return of the refugees.
Mizintsev said that over 1.2 million of internally displaced Syrians and about 300,000 refugees have returned in the past two and a half years.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin might take part in a summit with the leaders of Turkey and Iran at the beginning of September.
The three leaders met in April at a summit in Ankara where they discussed developments in Syria.
With help from its Russian ally, President Bashar Assad’s regime has expelled fighters from large parts of Syria’s south since June.
Israel has repeatedly pledged to prevent Iran from establishing a military presence along its border. A series of airstrikes that killed Iranians inside Syria have been attributed to Israel.
A buffer zone separates Syria to the east, from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to the west.
The Russian army’s Lt.-Gen. Sergei Kuralenko told reporters on an organized press tour this week how “stability” had returned to the buffer zone.
Apart from “a few problems with Daesh” in its southern tip, the demilitarized zone was “entirely under control of Syrian military police,” Kuralenko said.
“Everything is ready” for the return of UN troops, he said, after the peacekeepers were forced to withdraw in 2014.
After retaking most of the two southern provinces adjacent to the buffer zone, regime forces last month raised their flag inside, above the key border crossing of Quneitra.
The Russian military police have set up four observation points along the demarcation line on the Syrian side of the buffer zone, Kuralenko said, and plan to set up four more in the near future.
They are “willing to hand them over to the UN if it says it is ready to ensure the monitoring of the Golan alone,” he said.