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.
UN warns of worsening hunger crisis in Yemen
- The World Food Programme is in the process of scaling up its activities in Yemen to provide emergency food assistance
- Eight million people in Yemen are already considered to be in the brink of famine
GENEVA: Some 12 million Yemenis could soon be on the brink of famine if the security and economic situation in the war-ravaged country does not improve, the UN warned Tuesday.
“Yemen is currently facing the world’s worst hunger crisis, with almost 18 million people throughout the country not knowing where their next meal is coming from,” World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Herve Verhoosel told reporters in Geneva.
Over eight million people are already considered to be on the brink of famine in Yemen, he said, adding that the situation was being exacerbated by sky-rocketing food prices, which have soared by a third in the past year alone.
“If the situation persists, we could see an additional 3.5 million severely food insecure Yemenis, or nearly 12 million in total, who urgently require regular food assistance to prevent them from slipping into famine-like conditions,” he warned.
This means the UN agency will need more funding, Verhoosel told AFP, pointing out that “the more people (who need help), the more money is needed.”
WFP is in the process of scaling up its activities in Yemen to provide emergency food assistance to some eight million of the country’s hungriest people each month, Verhoosel said.
But he lamented that due to the dire security situation in the port city of Hodeida, the UN agency still did not have access to some 51,000 tons of wheat stocks at its Red Sea Mills facility there, which would be enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure access to these wheat stocks,” Verhoosel said.
Yemen’s air, land and sea ports are currently functioning, so WFP had several ships filled with aid headed toward Yemen, and is working to reposition stocks in case routes are cut off, he said.
The agency has also begun using the port of Salalah in Oman as a supplementary route, he said.
WFP currently has enough grains in Yemen to help 6.4 million people for two months.
But Verhoosel warned that distribution across the country was difficult at best, insisting that aid workers need access and guarantees that their neutrality will be respected.
“We need an end to the fighting,” he said.
Yemen’s brutal conflict has since 2015 left some 10,000 people dead and has created what the UN has dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.