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Terrorism

Iraq to reopen Trebil crossing after Rutbah's liberation

By Khalid al-Taie

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The Iraqi government is working on resuming operations at the Trebil crossing on the border with Jordan after nearby towns have been liberated from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'. [Photo from the Iraqi Minister of Interior Mohammed al-Ghabban's Facebook page]

Iraq is directing efforts to reopen the Trebil crossing on the border with Jordan, which has been closed to passenger traffic and trade since the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) overran the town of Rutbah and other border areas in western Anbar province almost two years ago.

In mid-May, the Iraqi army, backed by local fighters, drove out ISIL militants and regained control of Rutbah, located on the road to the Trebil crossing.

Soon afterwards, Iraqi forces started cleansing the international road connecting the town to the border crossing from explosives, al-Jazeera and al-Badiya commander Maj. Gen. Qasim Mohammed Saleh said.

"We removed about 250 bombs planted by terrorists on both sides of the road," he told Mawtani. "We also dismantled several booby-trapped shops and rest stations scattered along the road."

"Our military units are deployed along the road from Rutbah all the way to the crossing," he said, "and we are currently working on increasing their numbers with more supporting forces."

Fixed and mobile patrols will be deployed to fully control and secure the road, he added.

Iraqi troops will also conduct pre-emptive military operations to hunt militants in the desert and prevent them from setting up posts close to the road or threatening the safety of travelers and commercial traffic once the crossing is operational, he said.

Rehabilitation of international road

"The road needs to be rehabilitated as there are over 15 bridges that were partially or totally destroyed at the hands of terrorists," Saleh said, adding that some routes are not suitable for the passage of civilian vehicles.

Once the road is secure and rehabilitated, the crossing will be reopened, he said, predicting the completion of the security protection measures within two months.

Meanwhile, Rutbah is fully secured, Saleh said, noting that security forces defused 300 explosive devices in the town's streets and alleys, and dismantled around 50 booby-trapped houses.

"Our troops have begun to establish posts to prevent any breaches by the enemy," he added.

About 100 displaced families have already returned to their homes, he said, while basic services such as water and electricity, and government departments and infrastructure facilities that were deliberately targeted by ISIL need rehabilitation.

Local authorities in Anbar are seeking to reopen the Trebil crossing and resume operations in it as soon as possible due to its great importance, said Anbar provincial council security committee member Rajeh Barakat al-Aifan.

Earlier last week, al-Aifan and a number of Iraqi officials paid a visit to the border crossing.

"The international road leading to it was secure," he told Mawtani. "Military units are deployed everywhere and [Iraqi] forces are extending their control in the area."

However, the road has suffered damages and needs to be rehabilitated, he said.

"We will reconstruct it," he added.

Restoring life to Anbar

"As for the crossing itself, it was not affected because it remained under the grip of security forces even after ISIL's control of Rutbah," he said, "but it was closed and all commercial and travel activities were suspended."

Al-Aifan said the crossing "simply needs some repairs and updated equipment for inspection, security surveillance and regulation of vehicle and truck traffic to resume its work again".

Anbar's local government has called on all international organisations and agencies to assist in the reconstruction efforts and the rehabilitation of infrastructure in the province's liberated cities and towns, he said.

Reopening the Trebil crossing will restore life to Rutbah and the whole province, said Rutbah governor Imad Meshaal al-Dulaimi.

The crossing can resume its operations once the international road leading to it, and all damaged bridges and rest areas have been repaired, he told Mawtani.

"The road has been completely cleared of explosives and the mission was successful," he said. "Unfortunately, five of our security forces were martyred while trying to dismantle one of them in Tayba rest stop near Rutbah."

The security situation in the town "is now stable", al-Dulaimi said, urging for a boost in aid to assist in the reconstruction efforts and the return of displaced families to their homes.

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