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The New Arab

Explosives contamination in Mosul is 'of previously unseen magnitude'

Mosul's Old City is littered with unexploded bombs [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 December, 2017

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Iraq's second city of Mosul remains heavily contaminated with unexploded bombs and other remnants of the battle against Islamic State militants, the UN's mine action agency said.
A team of de-mining experts have said the extent of explosives contamination in Mosul is of a "previously unseen magnitude".

Clearance work has begun in Iraq's second city which in July was retaken by Baghdad forces and a US-led coalition after two years of militant rule under the Islamic State group.

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) was recently granted access to the Old City of Mosul to assess and clear explosive hazards including homemade bombs and remnants of war to complement the work done by Iraqi security forces.

However such is the extent of the damage that UNMAS has estimated that Mosul's Old City will still need "many years of clearance before being declared free from the threat of explosive hazards", the UN body said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The extent of explosive contamination in Mosul is of a previously unseen magnitude," said Pehr Lodhammar, Senior Programme Manager for UNMAS Iraq.

"The clearance of explosives creates the conditions for a safe, voluntary and dignified return of internally displaced persons who are striving to return safely to their homes," added Tomas Reyes Ortega, Deputy Head of Mission at the EU Delegation in Baghdad, who recently visited Mosul's Old City together with an EU delegation.

While hundreds of thousands of Mosul residents remain displaced in Iraq and residing in camps, 27 percent of those who fled the fighting have returned to liberated areas of the city – but dangers remain at every corner.

In the first two days of initial assessment in November, more than 100 explosives were reported by civilians and other national agencies to the clearance teams in Ninewa Road, the main street running from east to west through the Old City.

"If the current assessment and clearance pace is maintained and no major events occur, it is estimated that Mosul's Old City will still need many years of clearance before being declared free from the threat of explosive hazards," the statement said.

"Clearing explosive hazards from infrastructure is a critical first step before any rehabilitation can commence."

Reyes Ortega added the EU has recently agreed on a further contribution of 10 million euros in support of UNMAS' work in Iraq.

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