Extremist corpses poison life in Iraq’s Mosul

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Iraqi men check a site in the city of Mosul where bodies of alleged Daesh militants remain on January 11, 2018. (AFP)
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Iraqi men cover their noses as they check a site in the city of Mosul where bodies of alleged Daesh militants remain on January 11, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2018
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Extremist corpses poison life in Iraq’s Mosul

MOSUL, Iraq: For three years, extremists made life in Iraq’s Mosul impossible. Now, six months after their defeat, even their corpses are polluting everyone’s existence as no one wants to move them.
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.


Erdogan picks ministers for Turkey parliamentary race to boost his AK Party’s chances

Updated 8 min 13 sec ago
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Erdogan picks ministers for Turkey parliamentary race to boost his AK Party’s chances

ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has picked prominent ministers to run for parliament next month, strengthening the ruling AK Party’s chances of winning a majority but putting their future role in government into question, party officials say.
Many cabinet members including the energy, defense, foreign and interior ministers were named this week by the party to run for parliament in the June 24 poll, where the Islamist-rooted AK Party faces a stiff challenge from an opposition alliance.
While boosting the list of candidates, the move could affect the shape of the future cabinet because lawmakers will not be able to hold ministerial posts under the new presidential system, unless they resign their seats.
The party, in power since 2002, remains Turkey’s most popular political force, but recent opinion polls have suggested it could struggle to win an absolute majority, even with the support of its nationalist MHP ally.
The latest fall in the lira, which has lost more than a fifth of its value against the dollar this year, could also work against Erdogan if voters fear the government is pushing prices and the cost of living higher.
Erdogan is still widely expected to win the presidential election to be held the same day. While the presidency will take on greater executive authority afterwards, an opposition-controlled parliament could vote down legislation.
“Erdogan wants to win a parliamentary majority in this critical election with a strong list,” said one AK Party member running for parliament.
A survey by MAK pollsters, viewed as sympathetic to the ruling party, showed on Wednesday that the parliamentary race is absolutely balanced, with the AK Party together with the MHP winning exactly 50.0 percent. In the presidential vote, it saw Erdogan winning 51.4 percent.

MINISTERIAL CHANGES
The move to throw high profile ministers into the parliamentary race could have a major impact on the composition of next cabinet.
“Under normal circumstances, those who are in the (parliamentary) list will not be appointed ministers,” a senior AK Party official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
Finance Minister Naci Agbal was not named as a parliamentary candidate, and three sources said he was expected to remain in the post-election cabinet.
However, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci is expected to leave the cabinet and run for a mayoral office, the sources said, while the future of Mehmet Simsek, deputy prime minister with responsibility for the economy, was undecided.
Investors have been watching closely for signals about Simsek’s role. As a former investment banker in New York and London, he is seen as one of the most investor-friendly members of a government at odds with economic orthodoxy.
The Turkish lira, already one of the weakest emerging market currencies this year, has lost another 13 percent against the dollar since Erdogan said in London last week that he planned to take greater control of the economy and that the central bank would not be able to ignore signals from the new executive presidency.
“Erdogan will make the last call on Simsek. Although Simsek’s policies are sometimes criticized, everyone knows that it’s hard to replace him,” an AK Party official said.
Simsek congratulated those on the party’s parliamentary list on Tuesday, adding in a tweet: “Onwards, no stopping.”
Officials say economic management is expected to be overseen by one of five vice presidents in a cabinet made up of 14 ministers — down from the current 21.
The changes have not yet been finalized, however, and may not be completed before the election, one of the AK Party officials said.