Hamadaniya and London – Peshmerga Forces liberated on Wednesday the Bashiqa strategic town from ISIS control, but warned civilians of a hasty return to the town given that houses and roads might be booby-trapped.
Earlier in October, Iraqi army and counter terrorism forces liberated Hamadaniya district, 27 Km southeast of Mosul, after ISIS had occupied it for over two years.
Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper toured the now-almost completely destroyed city. ISIS demolished most of the infrastructure of Hamadaniya and booby-trapped the rest.
Nineveh police forces took control of the city after liberation, while the military engineering troops are in control of clearing it out of any explosives or bombs.
Nineveh police officer Mohammed accompanied Asharq Al-Awsat in its visit. He asked us to be careful while touring because of ISIS’ bombs. He told us to follow his steps as he explained how the city was occupied and destroyed by ISIS.
I wasn’t able to find a single house in Hamadaniya that wasn’t damaged, burnt, or destroyed by ISIS militants who fled the town to al-Entisar neighborhood, which was also liberated a few days ago.
Hamadaniya, which was highly populated by Iraqi Christians, is now empty and civilians find it hard to return to the city due to lack of services (water and electricity), and the absence of public institutions.
We noticed graffiti on the walls with ISIS’ slogans and names of officials. According to an Iraqi security officer, a local ISIS leader would pay a large sum of money to own a neighborhood, and writes his name on the wall. The militant would then loot the neighborhood and rob all its houses and stores.
ISIS is highly dependent on explosives in its battles against Iraqi forces. It also resorts to booby-trapped cars and snipers while its members hide in tunnels wide enough for vehicles to pass through.
Hamadaniya district president Nisan Rzouki, who was with us during our tour, said that certain areas in the town are still unsafe. He explained that the forces are still demining the area and clearing it of any ISIS fighters that might be hiding in the tunnels.
During his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Rzouki stressed that the return of civilians to Hamadaniya requires a certain timeframe if the federal government and international organizations are not ready to support such a move.
According to the district president, 80% of Hamadaniya has been destroyed. He also called on authorities to consider the city a disaster area.