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Al-Baghdadi island comes back to life after liberation from ISIL

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad

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After 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' militants were driven out of al-Baghdadi island, Iraqi forces set up a floating bridge in the area to link different cities in Anbar province. [Photo courtesy of the Joint Operations Command]

Operations are underway in Anbar's al-Baghdadi island area to clear the remnants of war and restore services in preparation for the return of residents.

The area, situated along the north-east bank of the Euphrates River in Haditha district, was liberated from the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) on September 21st , just one day after Iraqi security forces, with the support of tribal mobilisation forces, launched the liberation operation.

The first measures to bring back stability to the region included the deployment of three regiments from the tribal mobilisation forces along the river in al-Baghdadi island to secure the area, said tribal mobilisation commander in Baghdadi, Sheikh Qatari al-Samarmad.

Most tribal mobilisation fighters are volunteers from the area, he said, and their main task is to ensure the return of security and stability.

"The most important achievement is that al-Baghdadi island was cleared of ISIL, and everything else now becomes easy, including cleaning up the area of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and mines, securing the roads and restoring services," he told Diyaruna.

"There are no more incubators for ISIL in Baghdadi and the entire province of Anbar, with the exception of a few followers and supporters in the city of Qaim on the Syrian border, where their families reside," he said.

Bridge to link Anbar cities

The army's 7th Infantry Brigade engineering battalion and other military engineering units have set up a floating bridge on the Euphrates River to link al-Baghdadi district with al-Dulab island and villages west of Heet island, deputy mayor of Heet Muhannad Zibar told Diyaruna.

The Waheed bridge "would be a substitute for the bridges that were blown up by the terrorist group ISIL", he said. "It will also provide support and backing to the military units stationed in al-Baghdadi island and facilitate the crossing of displaced families to their liberated areas after they are cleared of IEDs and explosive materials."

"Despite the large-scale destruction caused by ISIL in the 105 villages of al-Baghdadi, restoring basic services will be completed in just one month in the main villages of the island to make it ready for the return of displaced people," he said.

Some of the main needs of the region during the next phase, he said, include rehabilitating the drinking water stations, extending electricity wires, repairing power transformers and cleaning up roads of debris and rubble.

Reconstruction co-operation

Sheikh Mal Allah al-Obeidi, al-Baghdadi's municipal council head, praised the role of the tribal mobilisation forces in restoring stability to the area.

"They take turns in guarding and securing the area at night, and work to clean up the roads and remove the rubble during the day," he told Diyaruna.

Although their efforts are modest compared to municipal departments, he said, they reflect the desire of the people of the region to rebuild and bring stability to their areas.

Al-Obeidi called on the local and federal governments to increase support for al-Baghdadi island so that it can finish the reconstruction operations as soon as possible.

Al-Baghdadi island is a very important area, he said. "Liberating it secured Ayn al-Asad airbase entirely from ISIL rocket attacks that were launched from there, as well as secured al-Mujama al-Sakani in the city of Heet."

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