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ISIS-Planted Mines Delay Return of Raqqa Residents

ISIS-Planted Mines Delay Return of Raqqa Residents

Tuesday, 24 October, 2017 - 08:30
Graduates of a US-trained police force, which expects to be deployed in Raqqa, salute during a graduation ceremony near Ain Issa village, north of Raqqa, Syria, June 17, 2017. (Reuters)

Massive destruction left behind by fierce battles fought between ISIS terrorists and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters in Syria’s Raqqa have delayed the return of displaced residents to their homes.

When scoping streets and neighborhoods, widespread devastation gauges the ferocity at which clashes were fought. Shops and homes that survived the bombardment had their windows and doors shattered by the power of the explosions.

Post the former ISIS stronghold’s liberation, Raqqa’s Civilian Council finds itself in the process of preparing to take over the city's administration. The council is a local body consisting of 14 specialized committees.

SDF officials announced that ISIS was fully expelled from Raqqa on October 17.

Among the most important challenges will be sweeping mine-infested zones, lifting of rubble, and resuming local education after three years of disruption.

"We have developed evaluation programs to study all areas with affected services, such as health, educational and public-- and we have surveyed all life aspects in Raqqa. A rapid response plan has been developed accordingly," said Raqqa’s Civilian Council chief and Kurdish civil engineer Leila Mustafa.

The plan covers mine clearance, which will only be done through specialized organizations and international companies.

There is also the return of the residents that is linked to clearing the city from the traces of ISIS.

Opening main streets and entrances so that Raqqa residents can return and assist in reconstruction efforts is also another milestone to be crossed by the rebuilding campaign.

At the end of September, members of the RCC, including Mustafa, traveled to the Italian capital Rome and held meetings with International Coalition countries, the United Nations and the European Union.

"We have seen these countries interact seriously with the council and they pledged assistance. The Netherlands allocated 1.5 million euros for de-mining operations, and the EU gave a €2 million grant for de-mining as well."

Brett McGurk, the top US presidential envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, arrived in northern Syria last week and met with members of the Raqqa council and the reconstruction committee.

He also met tribal leaders and urged them to work closely with the SDF.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday that several leaders of the al-Qaeda offshoot, the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, were killed by Israeli aircraft targeting two locations in the Golan Heights.

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