Volunteers in southern Hasakah are risking their lives to defuse mines and explosive devices left behind by ISIS militants.
Traps, mines, IEDs and other explosive devices represent one of the most acute sources of danger in areas liberated from ISIS. The militant’s tactic of using such devices as a means to actively prevent people from returning to their homes and take lives even when the group has been defeated in the battlefield is a consistent problem in Libya, Syria and Iraq alike. The problem is more pronounced outside major cities like Benghazi, Raqqa and Mosul where resources and staff is more limited. Such is the case in the village of Khaskhash Jabbour in southern Hasakah.
Located south of the town of Shaddady, along the Euphrates, the village was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in 2016. Prior to their retreat, however, the militants destroyed much of the village and peppered the rest of the area with mines. The residents who were displaced from their homes into other parts of Hasakah found that their joy of return quickly soured when casualties started to mount. Residents here say that 20 people from the village died in the course of 10 days alone, not to mention countless farm animals.
A number of locals, such as Khalil Awad al-Sawadi, have taken on the dangerous task of clearing the mines. Armed with only rudimentary tools and learning on the job, Khalil has been steadily clearing the main arteries of his village from explosives. Over the course of his work, Khalil has come to understand the different types of devices used by the militants, such as trip-wire bombs, electric mines and reverse mines. He needs to learn quickly in a task where the smallest error can cost him his life.
Despite his efforts, however, he is just one person working with very limited resources. Even in a small village like this, the area he has to cover is enormous. He and the other villagers here hope that authorities in Hasakah can send more support so that life returns to their village without any more bloodshed.