The improvised explosive devices left behind by ISIS discourage hundreds of families from returning to their destroyed villages around Baiji.
In the city of Baiji in Salahuddin Province, many fields and orchards continue to be riddled with mines planted by ISIS before their defeat in order to hinder the advance of the Iraqi forces. According to residents of the city, dozens of civilians have been killed and injured by these mines since the liberation. “We got our houses back, but the remnants of war are still there. ISIS left us with booby-trapped homes,” said Lahib, a resident of Baiji. “One of these homes blew up on my uncle. I saw it with my own eyes.”
Furthermore, the presence of these explosives has hindered the return of many IDP families back to their homes. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), only 2,500 people have returned to their damaged city since the defeat of ISIS in December 2017.
To combat this issue, international organisations have taken up the task of demining Baiji’s fields. Amongst these organisations is the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), which has contracted a British firm, the Halo Trust, to remove the enormous amount of mines in the city. Data revealed by UNMAS has shown that over 300 mines have been removed from the city of Baiji alone since liberation, with over 25 new IEDs and mines discovered daily.
With such massive amount of explosives remaining in the city, local officials have called on the Iraqi Government to allocate more money to remove these remnants and rebuild their areas.
Since the liberation of Iraq, UNMAS stated that the costs of removing all of the mines of Iraq would be over $100 million and would take at least a decade to complete. According to statements by UNMAS, removing explosives from the city of Mosul alone would cost $50 million.
As Iraq continues in its reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts, the issue of explosives materials must be prioritised as it puts residents in danger, and prevents the return to normalcy.