ISIS Is Ousted, But Much Of Mosul Still Lies In Rubble

Sep 8, 2017
Originally published on September 8, 2017 9:11 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This morning, we're going to hear what it's like to be in the Iraqi city of Mosul two months after Iraqi and U.S. forces pushed ISIS out. Parts of the city are teeming with life - open shops, traffic flowing. But in other places, it seems like the battle just ended - neighborhoods in rubble and people still not allowed to return home. NPR's Jane Arraf is there. She's on the line now. Hi, Jane.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So I remember speaking to you back in July. You were out in the streets in Mosul. You could still hear incoming mortar. You could hear airstrikes being carried out above you. Tell me, where are you now? What's it look and sound like?

ARRAF: So I'm right between East and the destroyed part of Mosul, West Mosul, on one of the pontoon floating bridges. And the reason they have these bridges - two of them now - is because the major bridges that were hit by U.S. airstrikes to prevent ISIS from escaping are still basically in the river.

So there's a steady stream of taxis and buses and people walking across. They're trying to get to their homes, some of them, in the destroyed old part of the city, basically to salvage what they can, to see if they can go back. And others are going across to East Mosul, which is this big, bustling, relaxed, thriving town these days. It's very much two different cities.

KELLY: And just to be clear, the bridge that you're standing on connecting these two is a temporary pontoon bridge because the permanent ones are - were blown up?

ARRAF: Absolutely. They were blown up, as was some of the rest of the infrastructure because ISIS was in control of Mosul for three years. But it means that it has left a horrendous amount of destruction. And on the west side, no running water, no electricity and neighborhoods where there are still explosives in some places.

We talked to one family that was trying to come back. And Federal Police caught up with them and said, you can't stay here. There are still bombs here. So they had to leave. That's what's happening in a lot of places. It's a marked contrast to the other side of the city, which wasn't as heavily damaged, where you see women driving, shops opening with glitzy dresses. I mean, life not just back to normal, but maybe even better than normal has been for the past few years.

KELLY: It sounds like there's still so much work to be done, especially in that western part of the city, to get life back to anything resembling normal. Who is in charge of leading that effort?

ARRAF: Well, that's a great question because officially, there is a force called the Federal Police. And I spoke to the Federal Police commander for the city yesterday. And he said, yeah, we're in charge now, but it's not clear who's going to secure the city after us or how long they'll stay. And then it's not just them, it's a variety of different forces. Some of them were former militias. Some of them are fighters that are connected to politicians. And none of them, really, are particularly trusted by people in Mosul.

There is a lookout point just across the bridge, where I ran into a man who was born in Mosul, and then he moved to the Kurdistan region. And he was taking pictures of himself, selfies, against the devastation. He hadn't been back in six years. And he said he was incredibly sad. And he was also sad because he said, I can never move back. I would be a stranger there. There's so much devastation. There's so much mistrust among people that it's really hard to see how they're going to pick things up again.

KELLY: That's NPR's Jane Arraf reporting in Mosul, Iraq, a city now freed from ISIS but still very much ravaged by the war that took place there. Thanks, Jane.

ARRAF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.