Liberation from militants leaves devastation in Mosul

In this July 13, 2017 photo, members of the Salih Ahmed family stand on the roof of their partially damaged house in the west side of Mosul, Iraq. IraqÕs U.S.-backed forces succeeded in wresting Mosul from the Islamic State group but at the cost of enormous destruction. The nearly 9-month fight culminated in a crescendo of devastation _ the blasting of the historic Old City to root out the militantsÕ final pockets.(AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

By SUSANNAH GEORGE

Associated Press

MOSUL, Iraq — There was a smell of death in Mosul’s Old City when Ayman Hashem came back this week to see what happened to his home. His neighborhood was unrecognizable.

“All that’s left is rubble and the bodies of families trapped underneath,” the 23-year-old said. He flipped through photos on his phone, showing picture after picture of wreckage. His own house was “cut in half,” he said. He had to cover his nose with his tee-shirt because of the smell of buried, rotting bodies.

Iraq’s U.S.-backed forces wrested Mosul from the Islamic State group at the cost of enormous destruction. The nearly 9-month fight culminated with a crescendo of devastation — the blasting of the historic Old City to root out the deeply dug-in militants.

Nearly a third of the Old City — more than 5,000 buildings — was damaged or destroyed in the final three weeks of bombardment up to July 8, according to a survey by U.N. Habitat using satellite imagery. Across the city, 10,000 buildings were damaged over the course of the war, the large majority in western Mosul, the scene of the most intense artillery, airstrikes and fighting during the past five months. The survey only covers damage visible in satellite photos, meaning the real number is likely higher.

The population, once numbering 3 million, is battered and exhausted, with hundreds of thousands displaced. Without a swift campaign to rebuild Mosul, aid and rights groups warn the current humanitarian crisis will balloon and resentment will likely give way to extremism, undermining the victory.

“If the western half is ignored it will produce a social disaster and this social disaster will create bigger destruction if it’s not addressed,” said Khatab Mohammed al-Najjar, a resident of eastern Mosul who watched the Old City burn from across the Tigris River during the operation.

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