Iraq cities can take up to 25 years of work to clear explosives

Author : Mircea Birca | Saturday, August 19, 2017
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The wires protruding from the small, misshapen stuffed animal revealed the deadly booby-trap tucked inside.

For the people of Mosul, the sophisticated bomb was a reminder of how difficult it will be to return to homes littered with hidden explosives by Daesh militants and dotted with the remnants of undetonated bombs dropped by the US-led coalition that still could blow up.

Washington at least is trying to ease a bit of the massive clean-up burden.

On Thursday, the top US commander in Iraq said for the first time that the American military will help contractors and other officials locate unexploded bombs dropped by the coalition. US Embassy officials have asked the coalition to declassify grid coordinates for bombs dropped in Iraq to help clear the explosives.

It may not be that simple, Gen. Stephen Townsend told a small group of reporters, “but we’ll find a way through that.”

“We’ll find a way to help them,” he said.

The coalition’s unexploded bombs are only a small part of Mosul’s problems. The bulk of the explosives have been hidden by Daesh fighters to be triggered by the slightest movement, even picking up a seemingly innocent child’s toy, lifting a vacuum cleaner, or opening an oven door. The effort could continue wreaking destruction on Iraq’s second largest city even as Daesh was defeated after a nine-month battle.

US Embassy officials and contractors hired to root out the hidden explosives use the same words to describe the devastation in western Mosul: Historic. Unprecedented. Exponentially worse than any other place.

“We use broad terms like historic because when you enter a dwelling, everything is suspect,” said the team leader in northern Iraq for Janus Global Operations, a contracting company hired to find and remove hidden explosive devices and unexploded bombs from Iraqi cities recaptured from the Islamic State group. “You can’t take anything at face value.”

The team leader asked that he not be identified by name because he and his teams continue working in Mosul and the company fears for their safety.

Some estimates suggest it may take 25 years to clear West Mosul of explosives. The bomb-removing team leader said those understate what is sure to be a long, enduring problem.

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