ISIL bombs in Iraq’s Ramadi hinder return of displaced

Unexploded bombs and damaged infrastructure continue to be a key challenge to the return of normalcy in areas freed from ISIL.

BAGHDAD // Bombs planted by ISIL are hindering the return of displaced families in the city of Ramadi, nearly two months after Iraqi forces took it back from the extremists, the UN mission in Iraq said on Monday.

UN development official, Lise Grande, said that such unexploded bombs have killed eight people in the past two weeks. They died either while surveying their homes or attempting to disable devices inside the city, she said.

“People who have been displaced want to return home as quickly as possible,” Ms Grande said. “Making sure they can do so safely is everyone’s responsibility. Booby-traps and IEDs have to be cleared first.”

Unexploded bombs and damaged infrastructure continue to be a key challenge to the return of normalcy in areas freed from ISIL.

Last month, Anbar’s governor Suhaib Al Rawi said that efforts to clear Ramadi of explosives were slowed by a lack of funding.

ISIL overran large parts of Anbar province in 2014 and at the height of its strength, controlled more than a third of Iraqi territory before coalition air strikes began.

Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, fell into the hands of the extremists in May last year which was a major setback for US-allied Iraqi forces at the time.

It was recaptured in December, with the help of US-led coalition air strikes and Sunni fighters, and the army has since set its sights on areas farther up the Euphrates river valley.

On Monday, Iraq deployed reinforcements to a military base in Anbar for an impending operation against ISIL in the western province, a senior officer said.

“Major military reinforcements ... arrived today to the Ain Al Asad base,” army Maj Gen Ali Ibrahim Daboun said.

The forces from the counter-terrorism service and police will take part in an operation in the coming days to retake the town of Heet and the nearby Kubaisa area, Gen Daboun said.

The Al Asad base is located northwest of those areas, while Ramadi, where government forces are also deployed, lies to its south-east.

Iraq’s economic crisis has left the province in debt and entirely reliant on international aid donations to rebuild.

An initial assessment of destruction in Ramadi carried out by the UN in January said more than 4,500 buildings have been damaged or destroyed during the battle to reclaim the city.

More than 3 million people in Iraq have been forced to flee their homes since January 2014, according to the United Nations which estimates that an additional 3 million people are living under ISIL control in Iraq.

About 500,000 civilians have returned to their homes following the Iraqi military campaigns to bring areas back under government control.

* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse