WASHINGTON / MOSUL, IRAQ — More than a year after Mosul was liberated from the grip of the Islamic State terror group, landmines and unexploded ordnance remain a threat to residents.
Two weeks ago, a group of children playing on the site of the historic Great Mosque of al-Nuri in western Mosul found and inadvertently detonated an explosive device. One child was killed in the explosion and two others were injured.
“When I heard that my son was injured, I was in shock,” Omar Abdulqader told VOA. “I hurried to the hospital only to find out that my daughter, too, was injured in the explosion.
“I saw her bleeding from her wounds. A [piece of] shrapnel injured her chest and her throat. I lost my son,” Abdulqader added.
WATCH: Unexploded Ordnance Terrorize Residents of Mosul
The Great Mosque of al-Nuri in old Mosul was built in the 12th century. It held a symbolic importance for IS, as it was used by the terror group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014 to declare the plan for a so-called caliphate.
Before Mosul was retaken from IS in June 2017, the terror group blew up the mosque and planted explosives to hinder Iraq’s military operations. The local government has not been able to fully clear the area of landmines and explosive devices.
Radwan Taha was playing with his now-deceased friend, Amjad, when the explosion occurred.
“The boy held up a device, the device exploded among us. A shrapnel injured my eye from the explosion. A group of people gathered and took us all in their cars to the hospital,” Taha told VOA.
Taha’s mother, Sawsan Mwafaq, urged the Iraqi government to intensify its efforts to clear the streets of rubble and explosives.
“My son’s eye is gone. We demand compensation from the government for what happened to us,” she told VOA.
Iraqi Health and Social Care Organization (IHSCO), a nongovernmental organization, has launched awareness campaigns about explosives in schools and neighborhoods across the city.
“People who are living here are suffering from these explosive hazards, and we are trying to spread awareness among people, especially children, on how to deal with this problem,” Gaith Qaseed, an aid worker with IHSCO, told VOA.
But residents are urging the government and international organizations to step up their efforts to clear the city of landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Mosul under IS
One of Iraq’s major cities, Mosul was declared part of the so-called Islamic State caliphate in June 2014 and was controlled by the terror group until 2017.
In October 2016, Iraqi security forces launched a major military offensive on the city to liberate it and expel IS militants. The offensive lasted about 9 months.
The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) said this month that Iraqi teams have removed more than 33,000 explosive hazards in Mosul in the last year.
Clearing the city of remnants of war might take years or even decades, the aid group Handicap International said in its 2018 report.
Source: VOA news