5 years and billions of dollars needed to rebuild Mosul, officials say

5 years and billions of dollars needed to rebuild Mosul, officials say

  • © Muhammad Hamed
  • Reuters
3 May 2017 | 18:17 GMT

The occupation by Islamic State and the battle to oust the extremists have reduced much of Mosul to rubble. A five-year plan to get the war-torn city back on its feet has been drawn up, but finding the money is proving to be a problem.

The airport, the train station and the university are among the many buildings in Iraq’s once-proud, second-biggest city that lie in ruins. Over 100,000 precious manuscripts from the university were looted or destroyed by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) who considered them blasphemous, according to activists.

In November 2016, the Iraqi government announced plans to start rebuilding Mosul after the city’s liberation from the militants. Local officials are currently surveying the damage in liberated eastern Mosul.

“After Mosul is fully liberated, we need a working plan to restore things to the way they were before 2014 when Islamic State took over,” Noureldin Qablan, deputy chairman of the Nineveh provincial council, told Reuters.

Qablan said that he and a group of 33 other Nineveh councilors have already started planning Mosul’s reconstruction, which will be carried out in phases. The first six months will focus on bringing back power, security and running water, which will be following by a two-year rebuilding process.

The plan also includes a two-year reconciliation process and a 30-month drive aimed at attracting outside investment.

But all this will cost billions of dollars, which the Iraqi government is unlikely to be able to afford. Even repairing houses at a cost of around $5,000 apiece will stretch the budget.

“Honestly, we are not getting enough support. What has been allocated to Nineveh in 2017 was 52 billion Iraqi dinars ($44.5 million), which is a very small sum for a province this size,” Qablan told Reuters.

“In 2013, we were allocated 738 billion dinars, yet after all this destruction we get just 52. It is very hard to reach our goals with this sum, so we are counting on foreign grants.”

The Nineveh council hopes to attract international aid from organizations such as the United Nations. Italy is already helping to rebuild a hospital.

And the threat from IS remains.

Iraqi troops, backed by US-led coalition airstrikes and Shia and Kurdish militias, have liberated the whole eastern side of Mosul in a six-month offensive that began in October. But securing the west of the city, in particular the northwest and the Old City, where the militants are currently holed up, has been proving a problem as firmly-entrenched militants have put up fierce resistance through booby traps, sniper fire and mortar shells filled with toxic gas.

IS militants are still holding out in the historic Grand al-Nuri Mosque, where leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi first declared his so-called caliphate in 2014.

Hundreds of civilians are being killed as the confrontation between IS and Iraqi forces intensifies, and the UN has warned of a possible “humanitarian catastrophe” if the siege conditions continue.

ISIS executing civilians for trying to flee Mosul – eyewitnesses

ISIS executing civilians for trying to flee Mosul – eyewitnesses
Islamic State militants have been killing scores of civilians attempting to flee the war-torn city of Mosul in Iraq, according to eyewitness reports, with as many as 50 people being put to death in the latest mass execution.

Fighting in western Mosul has been intensifying in recent weeks as Iraqi troops, backed by Shia and Kurdish militias as well as airstrikes from the US-led coalition, close in on the Old City, a stronghold of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

As it loses territory, IS has told the local population that the approaching forces will kill or imprison them in an attempt to deter people fleeing. But when this doesn’t work, the militant group has turned to mass executions of would-be refugees. In the latest incident, 50 civilians were executed in western Mosul on Saturday, a local source told Alsumaria News.

Another witness, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters he found a relative’s mutilated body left hanging on an electric pole in the Tenek district, along with three others who tried to flee.

“Their appearance was shocking. We weren’t able to get them down and they have been there for two days,” he said.

A woman who successfully made it out of IS-occupied territory described her narrow escape.

“They took our bags thinking there was gold or money in them and as they were busy checking the contents, we fled through the houses taking advantage of the pitch darkness,” she told Reuters. “I fear those families who stayed in Daesh’s [pejorative term for IS] grip met a terrible fate.”

The Kurdistan Regional Security Council has said that 140 civilians were killed trying to flee IS-controlled areas on Monday and Tuesday.

US military sources say that IS is using the civilian population as human shields in order to maximize casualties, giving the militants a propaganda boost.

“They brought the civilians back into the fight,” Brig. Gen. John Richardson, a coalition deputy commanding general in Irbil, told the Stars and Stripes, adding that Iraqi soldiers had recently found nine headless bodies at a traffic circle, along with a sign threatening more killings if anyone else tried to flee. “They’re actually telling them to stay in the neighborhoods.”

Some 150,000 civilians have fled the city, with a further 600,000 still in Mosul, 400,000 of whom are trapped in the embattled Old City, according to the United Nations.

But while the US-led forces might shift the responsibility for civilian casualties onto IS, scores have been reportedly dying in coalition airstrikes as well. In March, a Pentagon spokesman admitted the US “probably had a role” in a single bombing that killed around 240 people alone.

“You know that at the end of the missile there are four flaps, on that cartridge was written ‘made in USA’,” one man, who lost his wife and whose four-year-old child was left badly disfigured in separate airstrikes, told RT.

‘All of us were ISIS human shields’: RT meets survivors of Mosul siege (EXCLUSIVE)

The battle for Mosul has taken a heavy toll on civilians struggling to escape the crossfire between ISIS and the Iraqi army, survivors have told RT’s Murad Gazdiev. US and Iraqi officials, however, cannot evaluate the casualties, citing a lack of “visibility” on the situation.

Death & destruction: Learn more about liberation of Mosul

A hospital in Erbil has received as many as 120 wounded every day since the beginning of the operation to retake western Mosul from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists. Injured civilians, who managed to escape the ongoing bloodshed are being treated in the hospital, but many others have died trying to do so. The RT crew visited the busy facility and heard the chilling tales of survival and daring escapes from the city.

Civilians are suffering at the hands of the both warring sides — as IS terrorists deliberately hide among them in order to attract US-backed coalition strikes and thus inflict as many casualties as possible among the population.

“We were five families together when ISIS fighters came to our house and went on the roof. We asked to be allowed to leave– we knew a jet would bomb the house, but they said no,” an injured man told RT. “The Iraqi army came and shot at our house with an Abrams tank. Seven civilians were killed and their bodies are still there. Everyone else fled —children, women, people with injuries — everyone ran where they could.”

“If ISIS has one great talent – it is their ability to kill people. If they take an area with a population of a thousand, in six months there will only be 500 left,” the man added. “Ask anyone in this hospital — and every single one will tell you that we were ISIS’s human shield.”

Iraqi military actions inevitably inflict heavy civilian casualties as the army intensifies its attempts to crush IS within the war-torn city, some of the Erbil hospital patients told RT’s Gazdiev.

“The Iraqi soldiers didn’t know people were in the house. When they get shot at — they respond with fire. So when ISIS started shooting at them, they shoot back,” an Iraqi man said.

Many of those who managed to escape the carnage have paid a heavy price.

“We ran out of our home, and the army came to drive us away. When we got out of the cars, the shells started falling,” a girl in a wheelchair told RT.

Her legs were sprayed by shrapnel, but she got off lightly, compared to her mother. The woman has lost her eye, an arm and the ability to walk after being hit in an IS shelling, but the loss of relatives pains her the most.

READ MORE: ‘Western bombardment of Mosul radicalizing Sunni Muslims around the world’ – George Galloway

“All I remember is everyone laying on the ground, covered in blood. I think my brother and his son were killed. They tell me they’re OK… but I’m his sister. I can feel it,” she said. “Perhaps I committed some sin to deserve this. But I don’t know what I did, I just don’t know…”

Besides the IS mortar and artillery shelling, US-led coalition airstrikes also cause heavy suffering among Mosul’s civilians, according to survivors.

“We heard regularly of airstrikes hitting civilians. We ourselves spent two weeks on the floor, with the windows covered, so that no one would see us,” the maimed woman added.

The exodus from Mosul might accelerate rapidly as the Iraqi army pushes deeper into densely populated western neighborhoods where some 700,000 people are still trapped. Almost 100,000 Iraqis have been displaced by the battle in the 19 days since February 25, according to the latest estimates by the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).

A prominent Iraqi politician, Khamis Khanjar, warned the US-backed coalition on Monday that attempts to accelerate the battle would lead only to a surge in civilian deaths.

At least 3,500 civilians have already perished in west Mosul since the beginning of the latest offensive, according to Khanjar, who noted that most of the casualties have been inflicted by incessant coalition airstrikes and shelling.

“There were heavy casualties due to speeding up of military operations and we see this as a big mistake and residents who we are in touch with have much more fear than in the past of the ongoing military operations,” Reuters quoted Khanjar as saying. “We hope the US-led coalition doesn’t hurry up in this way without taking into consideration the human lives.”

US officials, however, could neither verify nor debunk these shocking figures, voiced by the Iraqi politician. The spokesman for the US State Department, Mark Toner, admitted that Washington has little data on what is really happening in Mosul.

“I just don’t have any kind of visibility on these exact allegations,” Toner told RT’s correspondent Gayane Chichakyan.

A lack of verified accounts, however, never prevented US officials from condemning reports of civilian sufferings and casualties during the Aleppo liberation. As many human rights advocates have noted, western mainstream media has also followed a similar pattern, citing all kinds of questionable sources to report casualties allegedly skyrocketing among eastern Aleppo residents.

READ MORE: ‘More have already fled Mosul than E. Aleppo during liberation’ – Russian FM

The Mosul operation gets completely different coverage in the media than the Aleppo liberation did, as civilian losses and hardships are muffled, Bolivian documentary filmmaker and director of the “The Voice of Syria” Carla Ortiz told RT.

“Whatever the media was covering 24/7 was basically on every wrong move that the Syrian Army, or Russia, or Iran were making. Of course, there were many casualties as well because that’s why it’s a war,” Ortiz said. “But I think about Mosul we don’t have much information about what is really happening. There’s a lot of silence about it, and if you want to find out you have to really go deep in.”

‘ISIS trapped & going to die’: US reaffirms rules of engagement in Mosul

As the fighting in Mosul rages on, the number of civilian casualties and displacements have grown significantly. While vowing to avoid civilian casualties by all means, the US is adamantly helping to maintain the siege until every single jihadist dies there.

Air strikes targeting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) fighters in the Iraqi city of Mosul are frequently killing civilians, a number of residents who lost loved ones have been telling RT recently. While the Islamic State is known to use men, women, and children as human shields in Mosul, the city’s residents have also accused the coalition of indiscriminate bombing.

READ MORE: ‘They were bombing randomly’: Mosul civilians doubt coalition’s careful targeting claims

On Sunday, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter Islamic State fighters, Brett McGurk bluntly warned that any remaining jihadists in Mosul will be killed inside the besieged city.

“ISIS is trapped. … Any of the fighters left in Mosul, they’re going to die there,” McGurk said in a conference in Baghdad. “So we are very committed to not just defeating them in Mosul, but making sure these guys cannot escape.”

Following McGurk’s remarks which coincides with reports of growing civilian casualties, RT asked the US State Department if Washington is still committed to its earlier pledge to do everything possible to spare civilian lives across Iraq.

In November, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that the US takes “every effort” and “every precaution to avoid civilian casualties” across Iraq event to the point where the US will call off a strike “against known enemy targets because they put civilians at risk.”

When asked again on Monday by RT’s correspondent Gayane Chichakyan if the rules of engagement have changed in any way for the Mosul operation, Toner replied: “they [rules of engagement] have not changed.”

“We try to have the best intelligence and information available that we can to avoid any civilian casualties. And again, we stand – I stand by those comments that we will sometimes, if we have information that indicates that there’s civilians nearby or civilians in a place, then we will refrain from acting,” Toner noted.

The spokesman said that if the reported allegations of strikes targeting civilians are credible, “that would need to be investigated, looked into, and… if changes need to be made in terms of targeting, then that’s something that Department of Defense would look at.”

Since October 2016, Mosul has been besieged by Iraqi troops, backed by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Shiite militias, and the US-led coalition, trying to drive Islamic State out of the city.

In January, the eastern half of Mosul was recaptured and operations to liberate the western side are ongoing. About one-third of Western Mosul has so far been liberated.

While the civilian death toll is impossible to calculate amid the ongoing battle for Iraq’s second largest city, Sheikh Khamis Khanjar, the founder of the Office of the Sunni Arab Representative for Iraq, said at least 3,500 civilians have been killed in the battle for Mosul.

Khanjar noted that most casualties are a result of US air strikes and “indiscriminate” shelling of crowded neighborhoods by the US-trained elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) forces, Reuters reported. According to Khanjar, some 850,000 people are still believed to be living in Mosul.

‘Worse number of airstrike casualties in than during , media fails to cover‘ – monitor https://on.rt.com/85nt 

Photo published for ‘Worse number of airstrike casualties in Mosul than during Aleppo, media fails to cover‘ – monitor...

‘Worse number of airstrike casualties in Mosul than during Aleppo, media fails to cover‘ – monitor…

The number of civilian casualties from airstrikes by the US-led coalition in the Iraqi city of Mosul exceeds the numbers reported by the media during the operation to retake Aleppo by Syrian and…

rt.com

The London-based Airwars monitoring group had earlier in the day assessed that the number of civilian casualties in Mosul far exceeded the numbers reported by the media during the operation to retake Aleppo by Syrian and Russian forces.

“Since the assault, first on east Mosul and then west Mosul began, we have seen just a remarkable change at Mosul, moving from tens of civilians reported killed every week or even every month, to hundreds reported killed every week now by coalition airstrikes,” Airwars director Chris Woods told RT’s Ruptly video agency.

In addition to the mounting civilian death toll, more than 200,000 refugees have fled Mosul since last October, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Biblical king’s palace uncovered beneath shrine destroyed by ISIS

The remains of the Tomb of Prophet Yunus, destroyed by Islamic State militants, in Mosul, Iraq, January 28, 2017. (REUTERS/Azad Lashkari)

The remains of the Tomb of Prophet Yunus, destroyed by Islamic State militants, in Mosul, Iraq, January 28, 2017. (REUTERS/Azad Lashkari)

Archaeologists in Mosul have made a stunning find beneath the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah that was destroyed by Islamic State militants in 2014: the long-hidden palace of ancient Assyrian King Sennacherib.

Experts were documenting the jihadists’ destruction of the tomb’s ruins when they located the palace, which dates back to 600 B.C. ISIS had dug tunnels into the site in a search for ancient artifacts to plunder, according to media reports.

The Telegraph reports that Iraqi archaeologist Layla Salih found a marble cuneiform inscription of Assyrian King Esarhaddon inside one of the tunnels. The inscription is believed to date to 672 B.C. when the palace was part of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh.

TREASURE HUNTERS STRIKE GOLD WITH ANCIENT JEWELRY FIND

One of the earliest forms of writing, cuneiform harnesses wedge-shaped marks and was widely used in ancient Mesopotamian civilizations.

The palace was built for the Assyrian King Sennarcherib, expanded by his son Esarhaddon, and renovated by his grandson King Ashurbanipal, according to the Telegraph, which notes that the palace was partly destroyed during the sack of Nineveh in 612 B.C. Sennacherib’s invasion of the ancient kingdom of Judah is extensively documented in the Bible. Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal are also mentioned in scripture, although feature less prominently.

Elsewhere in the tunnel, archaeologists found ancient Assyrian stone sculptures of a demi-goddess, the Telegraph reports.

ANCIENT HONORS: INSCRIPTIONS UNCOVERED AT SYNAGOGUE IN ISRAEL

The Tomb of Jonah, or Nebi Yunus in Arabic, is located on a hill in Eastern Mosul. The site was recaptured from ISIS by the Iraqi army last month during its Mosul offensive.

Jonah is revered in Christian, Muslim, and Jewish traditions. The Prophet’s tomb, which was located within a Sunni mosque, was destroyed by ISIS militants in July 2014.

Dr. Paul Collins, Chair of The British Institute for the Study of Iraq, which is working with the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage and UNESCO to protect Iraq’s cultural heritage, told Fox News that there could be more damage at the site. “The tunnels, probably dug for looting, are in imminent danger of collapse,” he explained, via email. “If this happens the result will be even more destruction at a site that had already been devastated by the explosions that destroyed the ancient Shrine of Jonah – in effect we will lose a place where Iraq’s ancient, medieval and modern cultural heritage rests one above the other.”

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Archaeologists have been aware since the nineteenth century that ancient Assyrian royal buildings are beneath the shrine, according to Collins, who notes that inscriptions and a relief from a dig in the 1870s are now in the British Museum. “Iraqi excavations in the 1950s revealed an entrance to an Assyrian royal arsenal and in 1990 a large Assyrian building to the east of the mosque guarded by colossal human-headed winged bulls was excavated, but this work came to an end with the Iraq/Kuwait war,” he said.

Iraqi forces near government buildings in Mosul as fight against ISIS continues

US-backed Iraqi forces are set to reach the main government complex in Mosul, their next target in the battle to retake the city from Islamic State.

The site should be taken on Monday, Lieutenant Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammadawi told the Reuters news agency.

Meanwhile, Colonel John L Dorrian, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the American-led coalition against ISIS, told Sky News the Iraqi forces were “imposing their will on the enemy” in the city.

Related stories…

  • Wave of ISIS car bombs targets Iraqi troops in west Mosul

  • ISIS fighters try hiding among Mosul families as refugee rates surge

  • ISIS fighters’ handwritten letters found at abandoned Mosul training compound

“They’re not going to be pushed out of Mosul – they’re going to surrender or they’re going to be killed there,” he vowed.

A senior commander said earlier Iraqi troops had been involved in the “heaviest” clashes yet with ISIS fighters in the west of the city since the start of their offensive.

Major General Haider al-Maturi of the Federal Police Commandos Division told the Associated Press the militants had dispatched at least six suicide car bombs, which were all destroyed before reaching Iraqi forces.

He said ISIS fighters are moving from house to house and deploying snipers.

Iraqi forces launched attacks against ISIS-held neighborhoods in western Mosul from three points on Sunday morning.

Read more from SkyNews.

WHO readies emergency plan after Mosul ‘chemical attack’

WHO readies emergency plan after Mosul 'chemical attack'
The UN-run World Health Organization is preparing an emergency response plan to treat Mosul residents injured in what appears to be the first chemical weapon attack in the assault on Islamic State’s Iraqi stronghold.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with local health authorities in the Iraqi city of Erbil to provide support in treating at least 12 people said to have respiratory symptoms and blistering. Four of them “are showing severe signs associated with exposure to a blister agent,” the agency said in a statement.

It is not immediately clear who launched the attack, but media reports indicate that the mortar shells came from western Mosul, which is still controlled by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants. The terrorist group is believed to be capable of manufacturing and using crude chemical weapons in both Iraq and Syria.

Since the outbreak of the battle of Mosul, the WHO has been developing the capacities to respond to the use of chemical weapons. According to the statement, the organization has trained over 120 clinicians and provided field decontamination equipment to local hospitals.

It also said the use of chemical weapons had deteriorated the humanitarian situation in western Mosul, “where innocent civilians are already facing unimaginable suffering as a result of the ongoing conflict.”

The chemical weapons attack was also confirmed and condemned by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The symptoms of the patients treated at Rozhawa hospital in Erbil included “blisters, redness in the eyes, irritation, vomiting, and coughing,” the ICRC said, adding that its medical teams dispatched to hospitals around Mosul have trained local staff on how to decontaminate and treat patients exposed to chemical agents.

READ MORE: Civilian death toll grows amid ISIS attempts to disrupt Mosul siege, UN figures show

“The ICRC condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons during fighting around the Iraqi city of Mosul,” the organization’s statement said.

“The use of chemical weapons is absolutely prohibited under international humanitarian law. We are deeply alarmed by what our colleagues have seen, and we strongly condemn any use of chemical weapons, by any party, anywhere,” the ICRC’s regional director for the Middle East, Robert Mardini, said

While the attack appears to be the first recorded use of chemical weapons in the battle for Mosul, there have been other cases in both Iraq and Syria. Earlier in January, Iraqi forces uncovered a mustard agent and missiles in a storage area formerly controlled by Islamic State near the historic Nineveh ruins, AP reported.

In September last year, the US military said IS militants fired a rocket containing mustard gas at US troops at an air base outside Mosul. Last August, the Russian Air Force destroyed an IS chemical weapons factory in the terrorist stronghold Raqqa in Syria.

Islamic State militants are also suspected of launching chemical attacks on Kurdish forces in northern Iraq.

The Iraqi forces’ offensive to recapture western Mosul began after the eastern half of the city, separated from the Islamic State-held west by the Tigris river, was liberated earlier in January, after nearly 100 days of intense fighting. Recently, the troops seized some important spots on the outskirts of western Mosul, making a slow advance into the area.

Western Mosul, with its narrow streets, is believed to be an extremely difficult area to capture. The densely populated western half is expected to see numerous civilian casualties due to fierce urban fighting, humanitarian organizations say.

According to UN estimates, between 750,000 and 800,000 civilians are trapped in Mosul’s western half. Meanwhile, the United Nations believes up to 400,000 people may have to leave their homes during the new offensive as food and fuel runs out.

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