Mosul’s years-long nightmare seemingly ended last week: On July 10, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed the full liberation the city.
On July 13, US presidential envoy Brett McGurk told a Coalition meeting in Washington that military experts consider the Mosul campaign “one of the most difficult military operations since World War II.” The danger to Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga during the nine-month offensive came not only from snipers and waves of suicide attackers, but also booby-traps, mostly mines laid throughout the city by fleeing Islamic State militants. Nina Seecharan, Iraq director for the British charity Mines Advisory Group, said in a statement on July 14 that the organization has not seen landmines used on this scale in 20 years.
Mosul’s liberation came at a high cost: 80 percent of the city, which traces its history back to 401 BC, lies in ruins. Mosul’s returning residents now also have to contend with the hidden threat of landmines and other ad-hoc explosive devices Islamic State left for them.
Nevertheless, the agency said Moslawis are eager to leave camps set up for internally displaced people, and return to what is left of their homes. An UNICEF spokesperson said 223,925 people have already returned to Mosul.
“Even though the fighting has ended, the rebuilding of children’s lives has only just begun. They will need physical and psychological care, and the swift restoration of all basic services including education and safe drinking water,” UNICEF spokesperson Sharon Behn Nogueira said.