After a long and fierce battle that finally led to the liberation of Mosul, Iraqi forces have started clearing up the war-torn city which has been reduced to a wasteland of rubble after months of brutal fighting.
The Old City, Mosul’s historical heart, has been among the hardest hit areas by the house-to-house fighting backed by airstrikes, artillery and heavy machine guns used to uproot the Islamic State (ISIS) militants, who had resisted with suicide bomb attacks and booby-trapped nearly all buildings.
In this part of western Mosul, thousands of structures including an iconic mosque have been destroyed, with many reduced to little more than concrete shells. The streets are strewn with rubble and scrap metal and lined with half-collapsed, bombed-out buildings.
Walking through the ruins, a China Central Television (CCTV) reporter passed a hole knocked into the side of a building in one of the Old City’s narrow alleyways, revealing what used to be a living room, with tables, chairs and a television set.
While government soldiers worked to clear up the rubble, the sound of warplanes and sporadic gunfire could still be heard, as Iraqi forces fought to eliminate the last pockets of ISIS resistance who defiantly remain.
“The airstrikes are aimed at eliminating the remnants of the ISIS fighters fleeing the Old City. Many of them have fled by road along the river. We spotted them on the ground and that’s why we are carrying out the airstrikes,” said Mehdar Hamid, a commander of the Iraqi anti-terrorism forces.
Mukdim Thaer, an officer from the Iraqi anti-terrorism forces, said it would take some time to fully rid the Old City of ISIS fighters and to then finish clearing up the rubble.
“There are still pockets of resistance surrounded by us in some parts of the Old City. The Old City is large, so we need more time. We have been clearing up the city every day. The engineering forces have been clearing explosives. You can hear explosions, but they are all under control. There are no extremists or other enemies any more in this area. The explosions come from destroying the explosives,” said Thaer.
Thaer said the anti-terrorism forces will soon leave Mosul and head for other parts of the country.
“We are combat forces dedicated to different cities, and because of the role we play, we will no longer stay to protect the city [after the fighting ends]. We will be heading for another part of the country. Our primary goal is Hawija or Tal Afar. Other forces will be responsible for the security here, for instance, the local police force and militia. They will take charge of securing this city from now on,” he said.
The Mosul operation began in mid-October last year and the city was declared liberated on Monday by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. In total, 80 percent of the city as a whole has reportedly suffered damage or been destroyed by fighting, leaving behind a mammoth task of rebuilding.
Priti Patel, the International Development Secretary, announced on Thursday (July 13) Britain is transferring £40 million of aid to help the people of Mosul rebuild their lives.
The UK will also give extra funding to boost the UN mission in Iraq and Mosul as part of its stabilization program, according to Patel.