UAE pledges $50m for stabilisation efforts in Raqqa

Funds will be used to improve living conditions in former ISIS stronghold and other areas once held by the militants

Al-Bawardi heads the state delegation at the NATO summit in Brussels. Wam
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The UAE has pledged US$50 million (Dh180m) to help stabilise the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa and other areas that were under control of ISIS.

The contribution was announced by Mohammed Al Bowardi, Minister of State for Defence, at a meeting of the global coalition to defeat ISIS at Nato’s new $1.45 billion headquarters in Brussels on Thursday.

“We are closely coordinating with the alliance to improve living conditions in affected areas,” Mr Al Bowardi told the meeting, according to Wam news agency.

He stressed the importance of co-operation in the fight to eradicate terrorism, be it through its origins or through the funding of terrorist acts. The meeting focused on progess in the fight against ISIS and improving security in the areas liberated from the extremist group.

The coalition did not respond to a request for comment. It remains unclear what other areas of Syria the funds would go to.

This Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 frame grab made from drone video shows damaged buildings in Raqqa, Syria, two days after Syrian Democratic Forces said that military operations to oust the Islamic State group have ended and that their fighters have taken full control of the city. (AP Photo/ Gabriel Chaim)
A frame grab from drone video footage of Raqqa, Syria, taken in October 2017 after it was liberated from ISIS. AP Photo

ISIS launched a multi-pronged insurgency from 2014 onwards that allowed the militant group to seize large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. The two largest cities it captured were Raqqa and Mosul, Iraq’s second-biggest city.

The militant group carried out a series of publicised executions, killed thousands, many of whom they left in mass graves, and carried out the mass rape and massacre of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq.

The coalition to defeat ISIS, led by the US and helped on the ground by local forces including Kurds, Sunni Arabs and predominantly Shiite Iraqi forces, liberated all of the cities under ISIS control last year.

Now, the international effort is focused on securing and rebuilding the population centres devastated by the years-long ISIS occupation and the fierce fighting to rout the militants, including an intense coalition bombing campaign.

The UAE is also funding the rebuilding of the historic Al Nuri Mosque in Mosul’s old city after announcing its support for the initiative in April. Abu Dhabi contributed $50.4 million to the five-year project.

Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development Noura Al Kaabi said on Monday that the reconstuction of the mosque was "an initiative that defeats extremism in all its facets. We don't want to allow the destruction of the past and the present".

Plans to rebuild the mosque and its famous “hunchback” Al Hadba minaret have already begun. The distinctive sloping minaret will be replaced with a replica, although its base will be preserved.

TOPSHOT - A picture taken on July 9, 2018 shows a view of the base of the destroyed "Al-Hadba" leaning minaret, with the dome of the destroyed Al-Nuri Mosque seen behind in the Old City of Mosul, a year after the city was retaken by the Iraqi government forces. Iraqi forces announced the "liberation" of the country's second city on July 10, 2017, after a bloody nine-month offencive to end the Islamic State (IS) group's three-year rule there. Scores of people are still displaced in and around Mosul as the city lies in ruins, one year after it was retaken from IS.  / AFP / Zaid AL-OBEIDI
The base of the destroyed Al Hadba leaning minaret in the Old City of Mosul, with the dome of the destroyed Al Nuri Mosque seen behind. AFP