06/27/2017, 19.53
IRAQ
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For Catholic Leader, Mosul's liberation from IS is near with reconstruction to follow

Duraid Hikmat Tobiya said that only a "few areas" remain in jihadi hands. Iraqi forces repel an IS counter-offensive. The fate of civilians remains a major concern. So far, more than 800,000 people have been displaced. Extremism must be controlled in sermons and school curricula. From Mosul comes an appeal to rebuild the mosque and minaret destroyed by the Islamic State.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – The liberation of Mosul, which the Islamic State (IS) has controlled since June 2014, "will be completed within the next few days".  At present, "only a few areas" are still held by Jihadis, this according to Duraid Hikmat Tobiya, a member of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organisation.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the Catholic former minority consultant for the Nineveh Governorate said that the fall of the former Caliphate stronghold should not take too long. According to Iraqi military sources, only a few hundreds IS fighters, perhaps 350, are still holding out.

"There is a lot of destruction, especially on the right bank, but as the battle rages on, there should be much more, especially to the infrastructure,” said Hikmat whose anonymous sources remained in Iraq’s northern metropolis during the length of IS rule.

Many fear that the final clash between jihadis and the Arab-Kurdish coalition will see "many innocent civilians die". In fact, “as many 100,000 people are still holed up in the besieged part [of the city], most of them women, children and seniors," used as "human shields" by Daesh (Arabic acronym for IS) to cover their escape.

Over the weekend, IS fighters launched a counter-offensive against the increasing attacks by the Arab-Kurdish coalition who, after freeing east Mosul, are now gradually taking control of the entire city. Against them, IS has deployed suicide bombers at certain strategic points, ready to blow themselves up.

Some locals are certain that, despite all the resistance, the final defeat is close at hands. At present, fighting is taking place in the western districts of Al-Tanak, Rajm Hadid and Al-Yarmouk, with many dead and injured.

Iraqi forces have been slowed down by snipers, who can hit even in the dark with night vision equipment. However, according to senior Iraqi officials, the Islamic State is militarily “finished".  

The fate of civilians trapped behind jihadi lines with little food, medicines and water is still a source of grave concern. So far, the number of displaced persons has exceeded 800,000.

Muslims and Christians who fled the city share the same difficulties and concerns, Hikmat said. The devastation, displacement and lack of jobs compound the problem. "The future of Mosul is still very vague. We are still waiting for total liberation, to see what will happen. Reconstruction remains the priority to enable people to return and resume their past activities. "

According to the Catholic leader, it is still too early to speak of "full peaceful coexistence" between the believers of the two religions. An "extremist ideology still permeates a part of the population" and even with IS’s defeat, fears of new violence will not be dissipated.

Now it is up to Iraqi authorities to eradicate the remaining pockets of fundamentalism. This will be possible by vetting "Friday sermons in mosques" and going after those who preach hatred and divisions.

School curricula will also have to be changed "because there can be no coexistence without a radical change in mind-set, eliminating at the root the ideology Daesh instilled in the minds of people, especially young people, over the last three years."

Meanwhile, in areas of Mosul freed by the Arab-Kurdish offensive, despite the signs of IS’s heavy and systematic violence, Muslims celebrated the Eid al-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan for the first time without jihadi threats.

Children poured into the streets and squares (pictured) of the eastern sector. Some celebrated with pistols and rifles, the only "toys" allowed under the Caliphate, whilst others took out their old toys.

An appeal has been launched in the city to international community to rebuild the leaning minaret (Hadbaa), which stood alongside the al-Nouri mosque, devastated by IS troops in the latest clashes with the Iraqi army, finally begins in Mosul.

Promoted by the popular Mosul Eye blogger, who described anonymously life under Caliphate, the appeal noted that "rebuilding the al-Hadbaa minaret" also means "reviving Mosul’s identity".

The minaret is part of the city’s “cultural and human heritage,” for both Christians and Muslims. Its destruction represents "the destruction of our human identity". Its reconstruction would show that international community cares for the region's fate and would be a strong response "to the kind of terrorism that destroys the human heritage."

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