Despite the defeat of the militant group, hundreds of ISIS mines left behind in the town of al-Qahtaniyah in Iraq have made life unbearable for local residents.
Despite no longer containing ISIS militants, the city of al-Qahtaniyah, about 100 kilometres from the city of Mosul, and a few kilometres south of Sinjar, remains labelled as the “city of terror” due to the presence of tonnes of ISIS-planted mines throughout its streets.
According to locals, the city has been largely forgotten by both the Iraqi Government and the international community despite the threats that continue to face its residents.
Reports estimate that over 20,000 hectares of agricultural land surrounding the city of al-Qahtaniyah continue to have mines and hazardous materials. As a result of the absence of dismantling projects, dozens of farmers, livestock and wildlife were killed.
“We want the Iraqi Government and humanitarian organisations to dismantle these mines,” said a local. “Every day people die because of these mines. This area is full of mines.”
The city of al-Qahtaniyah, also known as Tal Ezer, which was once known for its agricultural and livestock breeding, is populated mainly with Yazidis who have faced persecution for over a decade.
In 2007, an al-Qaeda attack injured and claimed the lives of over 2,500 residents in the city’s centre.
Twelve years later, terrorism continues to afflict its harm on the lives of the citizens.
“The road to al-Qahtaniyah is still blocked,” said a resident. “My children and I cannot move freely for fear of mines.”
The recent rainstorms have revealed the location of tons of mines, which continue to threaten the lives of citizens.
“There are more than five large truckloads of landmines before your eyes,” said a farmer from al-Qahtaniyah. “Two people from the Engineering Unit of the Imam Ali Brigades were recently martyred during the dismantling of the mines, and hundreds of livestock have also been lost in the area.”
Following the liberation of the country from ISIS rule in December 2017, the UN Mine Action Services (UNMAS) estimated that it would take at least a decade to remove the hazardous materials and mines from the country.
With many residents unable to survive if the mines remain, the Iraqi Government and the international community must take action urgently to dismantle and secure residential areas throughout the country.
These projects should be aimed at removing immediate threats, and cautioning civilians from entering mined areas.