Citizens of Ramadi are celebrating Eid al-Adha with lighter hearts and more cheer this year, thanks to improved security after the ouster of the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), local officials and clerics say.
On the morning of the first day of Eid al-Adha, which fell on Monday (September 12th) this year, the elderly and youth alike donned bright white clothes and headed to mosques to perform Eid prayers.
Later, children filled the streets, sharing their candy and boasting of the gifts and money they received from relatives, while families and friends exchanged visits with each other.
Life returning to normal
"This is the first Eid for the city after the demise of ISIL," mayor of Ramadi city Ibrahim al-Awsaj told Diyaruna.
Displaced residents begun returning to their homes in Ramadi after Iraqi forces liberated much of the city from ISIL last December.
"Thank God we received Eid with great joy," he said. "Markets are full of citizens and activity is high in the streets even two days before Eid as people were preparing for [the celebrations]."
"We were roaming the markets until two in the morning the night before Eid, and we observed the stability and security in the city," he said.
The city implemented a security plan specifically for Eid, al-Awsaj said, which involved the deployment of emergency battalions of police and Anbar Operations Command forces throughout the city.
"The city has not recorded any significant security breach," he said.
"You can already feel that the residents are happy to celebrate the holiday in their city and among their families," he said.
"Around 80% of the displaced have returned to Ramadi so far, and even those who returned to demolished homes seem happy to spend Eid in the ruins of their homes rather than suffering as displaced people," he added.
Service delivery during Eid
As for public services in the province, al-Awsaj acknowledged some minor problems and vowed to overcome them.
Ramadi's service departments have been working continuously before and during the holiday to provide residents with electricity, water and sewer services, he said, except for a short break granted to employees on the first day of Eid.
Efforts to provide services and ensure security are being intensified because of the importance of this Eid al-Adha for the people of Anbar, he added.
"The amount of joy among residents cannot be described," he said. "They exchange visits moving freely and safely, and we as a local administration have a duty to maintain this situation and work on its continuity."
Al-Awsaj expressed his hope that the situation will continue to improve in the coming days and that the economic situation also will witness an improvement with the return of life to the city.
Calls for unity, compassion
At mosques filled with worshipers for Eid prayers, imams and preachers focused on urging people towards unity and compassion, said Sheikh Mahmoud al-Fahdawi, a preacher at a Ramadi mosque.
Eid al-Adha in Ramadi has a special flavour this year, as it is the first since the liberation of the city from ISIL and the return of displaced families thanks to the Iraqi security and tribal forces, he said.
"Today the mosques are rejoicing and praising God Almighty. The light has returned to them after two years of injustice and oppression [under ISIL]," al-Fahdawi told Diyaruna, calling on the people of Ramadi to work to rebuild their city and support the security forces protecting it.
The stable security in Ramadi is an example and incentive for Iraqi armed forces to move to liberate the rest of the cities occupied by ISIL, showing no leniency for the terrorist group, he said.
Eid attack by ISIL thwarted
After having lost Ramadi and Fallujah, ISIL fighters attempted to disturb security in Tabaat, north-west of Rutba district in Anbar province, but they failed to hit their target and incurred heavy losses in lives and equipment, said tribal forces leader Lt. Nazim al-Jughaifi.
"Iraqi and tribal forces responded the day before Eid to an attack by ISIL on a security checkpoint in the Tabaat area," he told Diyaruna.
"The Iraqi forces killed 60 ISIL elements including suicide bombers from Arab and foreign nationalities, and destroyed eight vehicles including a car bomb," he said.