Iraq’s Mosul breathes easier after death of ‘butcher’ Al-Baghdadi

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A man walks near damaged al-Nouri mosque, where Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate back in 2014, in the old city of Mosul, Iraq, October 27, 2019. (Reuters)
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People walk on the street, where Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate back in 2014, in the old city of Mosul, Iraq, October 27, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 27 October 2019

Iraq’s Mosul breathes easier after death of ‘butcher’ Al-Baghdadi

  • “The people of Mosul should have a huge party,” said one city resident
  • “I’ve had three strokes because of Daesh,” recalled another

MOSUL: Five years after he made their hometown infamous as the heart of his “caliphate,” residents of Iraq’s Mosul said Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s death should be marked only one way — with “a huge party.”
In June 2014, Al-Baghdadi climbed a set of stairs at the Al-Nuri Mosque in the northern Iraqi city and declared himself “caliph” over millions of people in Iraq and Syria.
The announcement unleashed a volley of violence that killed thousands, displaced millions and left cities across both countries in ruin — including Mosul.
On Sunday, US President Donald Trump announced Al-Baghdadi’s death in a US special operations raid some 700 kilometers (430 miles) away in rural northwestern Syria.
“The people of Mosul should have a huge party,” said 37-year-old city resident Khaled Waleed, wearing a baseball camp and white shirt.
“This criminal, this butcher Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, he killed and slaughtered everyone,” he said bitterly.
Born in Iraq’s western Samarra in 1971, Ibrahim Awad Al-Badri took up the name Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi as he rose through the ranks to become Daesh’s feared chieftain.
His fighters burst into Mosul in the summer of 2014 and he made his first and only public appearance shortly afterwards to declare an Islamic “caliphate.”
Extremists imposed a strict interpretation of “sharia” there: music and smoking were banned, and any perceived violations were met with brutal punishments — including public beheadings.
“I’ve had three strokes because of Daesh,” recalled Hani Mahmoud, 54.
“My house burned down. My car was set on fire,” said the portly man with a closely-trimmed white beard.
Umm Alaa, an Iraqi woman dressed in a worn black robe, said Al-Baghdadi “made our lives hell.”
“There’s not a single house they didn’t attack, not a single house they didn’t oppress,” she said.
“This is a festival, a festival for all Iraqis because he destroyed us,” she added.
Daesh kept Mosul in its grip for three years, until a ferocious offensive by US-backed Iraqi troops ousted the extremists in 2017.
But the group left behind a horrifying legacy.
Many of Mosul’s neighborhoods, particularly the historic Old City which was the last area to be retaken, remain in ruins.
Slabs of concrete hang off destroyed and abandoned buildings like oversized hangnails.
The historic Al-Nuri Mosque stands gutted and covered in graffiti, while the adjacent ancient minaret — long the city’s symbol — was blown up in the violence.
Many residents have yet to return because their houses remain littered with unexploded ordnance or are damaged beyond habitation.
There are some 200 mass graves across the country where the remains of thousands of suspected Daesh victims have yet to be identified.
Several thousand people from the Yazidi minority are still missing, five years after Daesh ravaged their heartland near Mosul.
Bashar Hussam, 31, survived life under Daesh — unlike his father.
“My father had a blood clot and they didn’t let us leave until he died in front of my own eyes,” Hussam said.
While glad to see Baghdadi perish, he said it was not quite the happy ending he had hoped for.
“We want the other good news — that they rebuild our houses, that we go back to work and to our livelihoods.”


Egypt, Iraq move ‘hazardous materials’ amid safety drive

Updated 12 August 2020

Egypt, Iraq move ‘hazardous materials’ amid safety drive

  • A high-level committee in Egypt will examine all shipments in storehouses and containers in the cargo areas of airports in the country

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities have said that all hazardous substances stored at airports will be moved to safe storage to avoid the risk of a similar explosion to the devastating Beirut blast.
The move comes as countries around the world reevaluate safety protocols for storage of hazardous materials in the wake of the disaster in Lebanon.
Egypt’s Minister of Civil Aviation Mohamed Manar said a high-level committee will examine all shipments in storehouses and containers in the cargo areas of airports in the country, including Cairo.
The investigation will help to ensure the safety of employees and visitors at Egypt’s airports, he said.
The committee’s precautionary measures will include immediately moving hazardous materials to safe storage areas away from airports and residential areas.
Manar said that the committee will carry out a comprehensive evaluation of all measures applied in storage areas in order to provide the highest standards of safety and security in accordance with the instructions of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The minister said that the decision aims to counter risks and protect all civil aviation employees.
Iraq Border Management and Migration Control Authority also announced that “extremely hazardous substances” were moved from Baghdad International Airport.
The authority said that the products were safely transferred from the airport’s air cargo department to warehouses operated by the Military Engineering Directorate.
The directorate, affiliated with the Ministry of Defense, carried out the move. However, the authority did not reveal the nature of the substances or provide further details.
Meanwhile, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit highlighted the danger posed by a floating oil tanker near the Houthi-controlled Yemeni coasts. The ship is carrying 1 million barrels of oil.
Aboul Gheit said that the devastating impact of the Lebanon explosion “reminds us of the hazards posed by this oil tanker.”
The tanker has not undergone maintenance since the civil war began in 2015, he said. Aboul Gheit called on the UN Security Council to intervene so a UN team could carry out essential maintenance.
An Arab League Secretariat official said that “the main reason behind the lack of maintenance is the procrastination practiced by the Houthis to prevent to the UN team from accessing the ship. The UN Security Council held a special session to discuss the ship issue in mid-July.”
He warned that water had leaked into the tanker’s engine, increasing the risk of the vessel sinking or exploding.
Although a temporary repair was carried out, the UN confirmed that this could lead to a disaster, with devastating effects on marine life in the Red Sea.