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Elimination of explosives could take decades

Monday, August 21st, 2017 | World News

20.08.2017, 16:52 clock
   | Lolita C. Baldor, AP
 The IS was expelled from Mosul. But even after the victory over the Terrormiliz there is an alarm condition. The terrorists have left bombs that can explode at the smallest movement.

Small wires protrude from a plush toy. For experts, a sure sign: it is a blast trap. For the inhabitants of the IS-liberated cities in Iraq, however, the treacherous bombs are usually difficult to detect. The consequences are often fatal. A return to their own homes is usually impossible. In Mossul, where the Sunni militia militants were entrenched until a few months ago, it could take up to 25 years for special units to find and defuse all explosions.

"It's all suspicious"
Especially in Mosul, there is another danger: unenclosed bombs from the air raids of the international coalition under the leadership of the USA. In order to at least eliminate these as quickly as possible, Washington wants to support the security forces on the ground. Among other things, the exact position data of the individual drops are to be made available. The US General Stephen Townsend emphasizes that the task is very difficult. But "we will find a way to help them," he says.

The American duds are nevertheless only a small part of the problem in Mosul. Most bombs are from the displaced extremists. And these were hiding very purposefully to kill. Often, the smallest movement – such as the touch of a teddy, the lifting of a vacuum cleaner or the opening of a stove. In this way, the IS in the second-largest city of Iraq continues to spread fear and terror after its military defeat.

"When you enter an apartment, everything is suspicious," says a team leader of the private security firm Janus Global Operations, who was tasked with cleaning up several Iraqi cities. "You can not take anything for what it seems to be." Because of the still tense situation in Mosul, the explosives expert wanted to express himself against reassurance of anonymity to reporters.

  People can not enter their homes anymore
In about a year, the city will be able to return to everyday life in parts of the West, which has been at the very top of the fighting, says the head of the evacuation team. However, it is likely that in most ten years, most sprains will be defused. And even years or even decades afterwards bombs could appear again and again in construction sites and in other places.

No less than 90 per cent of the old town in the west of Mosul was destroyed three years ago by the Islamic militants, first by the IS fighters, later by the air raids of the US, and the inevitable grounding offensive of the Iraqi armed forces.

Muhammed Mustafa is personally affected by the catastrophe. "At first, we thanked God for being freed from our oppressors," says the 54-year-old. During the advance of the Iraqi soldiers, he and his family were able to flee to the east of the city. After the end of the battles he returned shortly because he wanted to get at least a few things from his house.

"In my street everything was broken except my house," says the restaurant owner. "But on the wall hung a written message with the warning of explosions." Security forces had told him that many buildings could not be entered yet and that many people had already been killed by the explosion of bombs while searching their own homes, Mustafa reports by telephone. "Imagine this – the house where I grew up, I can not now enter."

Traps were cleverly hidden
Even if their houses are still standing, the inhabitants should not enter them. (Source: Yusuke Suzuki / dpa)
The number and the elaborate construction of the homemade bombs are unprecedented, says David Johnson, deputy head of the Washington office of Janus Global Operations. His colleagues on the ground would usually find the explosives exactly where the inhabitants were most likely to be inadvertently hit the triggers.

According to the authorities, the explosions are partly triggered by simple pressure sensors under the road surface or at home. Often the devices are also comparable to the switches, which switch on the inner light when opening a refrigerator door. The extent of the destruction is so great and the danger is so high that neither the authorities nor aid organizations have been able to give a realistic estimate of how much money and money will be needed To make the city fully habitable again.

The local team of Janus Global Operations has concentrated in the last two weeks on securing the basic infrastructure. On Wednesday alone the men had discovered 50 bombs in a single pipeline, says the leader of the group. As a former explosive expert in the US Navy, he has often been involved in Iraq and Syria. He had never seen anything like it in Mosul before.

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