Iraqi teams this week announced they have completed their efforts to clear mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) from the streets of Ramadi.
As many as 10,000 mines and IEDs have been removed from the city during a year-long federal-local partnership, Iraqi officials told Diyaruna on April 16th.
The removal of ISIL explosives is a significant step for the city, they said, as these had posed a great threat to residents and impeded reconstruction and the resumption of services.
One of the companies assigned by the Iraqi Ministry of Health and Environment to clear Ramadi of unexploded ordnance and mines is al-Fahd Company.
Since last April, company teams have removed "more than 6,000 mines and IEDs", general manager Mohamed Attia told Diyaruna.
"They have done all the work assigned to them," he said, noting that their effort focused on removing explosives from official and service buildings, as well as from the city's streets.
"Most of them were removed from schools, hospitals and public facilities such as water and electricity stations, as well as the University of Anbar, which has taken a long time to clear," he said.
About 2,000 of the 6,000 mines were removed from city streets in co-ordination with Ministry of Defence engineering teams, Attia said.
"The total clearance area is about two million square metres," he added. "The city is now free of explosives, thanks to joint work."
Teams move into Ramadi suburbs
Al-Fahd Company teams will now turn their attention to the Ramadi suburbs, Attia said, which will require increased effort as the area contaminated by explosives includes broad desert areas.
Most of the areas on the outskirts of Ramadi, especially those stretching along the railway line to the Kilo 18 area west of the city, served as defence lines for ISIL after it seized control of the city in 2015, he said.
At the time, ISIL planted numerous IEDs to block the progress of military units, he said, noting that the successful removal of these mines will require "greater efforts and assistance from international bodies".
Most of the explosive removal activities in Ramadi are funded by a $5 million US grant to support Iraq's plans to rid the area of dangerous materials and assist in the rehabilitation of infrastructure and the return of displaced persons.
The work of clearing Ramadi was jointly undertaken by the Iraqi ministries of environment, defence and interior, as well as tribal forces and local volunteers, Ramadi mayor Ibrahim al-Awsaj told Diyaruna.
"US support and the partnership with the UN Development Programme played a pivotal role in supporting our efforts to deal with ISIL's remnants," he said.
Paving the way for reconstruction
Ramadi had been classified as one of the most contaminated cities in the world in terms of mines, al-Awsaj said, adding that this threat has been eliminated.
Ten thousand mines and IEDs have been removed from Ramadi, he said, and the city has been without incident, which indicates the success of the survey and removal work.
"On the other hand, there is still contamination of explosives on the outskirts of the city," he said. "It is difficult to pinpoint the precise location of the mines because they are spread over large areas of the desert."
Clearing explosives from the city has "accelerated the pace of the return of its displaced population", he added, noting that "today, more than 90% of Ramadi's population, or about 500,000 families, have returned to their homes".
The completion of mine-removal work is an essential step towards the restoration of normal life in the city and will enable reconstruction plans to go forward, said Anbar provincial council member Athal al-Fahdawi.
"The city is now ready for the entry of reconstruction companies," he told Diyaruna. "It has been completely cleaned of explosive materials."
The city's environmental department also has conducted several tests to determine the effects of the battles on air, water and soil.
The results show Ramadi is free of "any radioactive or chemical contaminants", he said.