Iraq’s Ramadi retaken, but rebuilding it a huge task
BAGHDAD // Iraqi forces have completely retaken areas surrounding Ramadi from ISIL but now faces the enormous challenges of removing bombs and rebuilding the shattered city, the country said on Tuesday.
Baghdad announced the recapture of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province west of Baghdad, in late December, but daily fighting with ISIL militants continued for over a month on the city’s eastern outskirts.
Iraqi forces “were able to liberate areas east of Ramadi”, including Sichariya, Juwaiba and Husaiba, said the joint operations command.
With the latest advances, Ramadi and all its surrounding areas have been retaken from ISIL, it said.
Iraqi forces “were also able to open the Ramadi-Baghdad road passing through Khaldiyah,” it added, referring to a government-held area along the route.
ISIL overran large areas of Iraq in June 2014, but security forces and allied tribesmen held out against the militants in parts of Ramadi.
The extremists eventually overran Ramadi in May 2015, however, in an assault spearheaded by a wave of car and truck bombs. ISIL’s capture of the city was a major blow to Iraqi forces, who had been regaining ground from the militants in other provinces.
But the capture was also the extremist group’s last major advance in Iraq, and in the following months, Baghdad’s forces slowly tightened the noose around the militants before moving into the city.
Tuesday’s advance boosted government efforts to close in on Fallujah, the ISIL stronghold located between Ramadi and Baghdad. The city is currently being besieged by the Iraqi army and allied, Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
UN efforts to stabilise Ramadi in preparation for the expected return of hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians are expected to cost around US$50 million (Dh183.6m), according to Lise Grande, the humanitarian coordinator in Iraq.
She said this would include $15m for removing hundreds of improvised explosive devices planted by ISIL on roads and in buildings. She appealed to international donors to increase the current $10m fund allocated for that operation.
The United Nations also plans to rehabilitate health and energy infrastructure in Ramadi, much of which was destroyed in fighting.
“Thousands of homes have to be rebuilt, thousands of buildings have to be rebuilt. The total cost of reconstruction in Ramadi is huge,” said Ms Grande.
* Agence France-Presse, Reuters
Updated: February 9, 2016 04:00 AM