Iraqi forces on Tuesday (December 5th) transported 50 displaced families back to their homes in the al-Zawiya area of westernmost Anbar province.
This is the first group of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to the area since the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) was driven out, a local official said.
"Today, 50 displaced families were returned to al-Zawiya area in Haditha district, close to the city of Anah," said Haditha local council head Khalid Salman.
The area has been "fully secured, and main services have been resumed", he told Diyaruna.
The return of these families represents "the kick-off of efforts by security forces and the local government to bring back all IDPs to the western areas of Anbar and support stability there", he added.
Al-Zawiya was one of the first areas Iraqi forces reclaimed during their massive military campaign in western Anbar, which concluded November 17th with the liberation of Rawa, the last city under ISIS control in the country.
More families will be able to return after the removal of explosive remnants of war has been completed and public services are made available, he said.
Supporting reconstruction efforts
Representatives of international organisations, including the UN Development Co-operation Forum, visited Haditha, Rawa and Anah this week, Salman said.
On Tuesday, they visited the city of al-Qaim to inspect the damage to its infrastructure and look at ways to take part in supporting reconstruction efforts.
There are concentrated efforts to quickly restore normal life there, Salman noted, expressing his hope that the page can be turned on displacement in Anbar’s western cities within the next four months.
These cities have been fully secured by al-Jazeera Command, the army’s 7th Division, rapid response units and local tribesmen, Salman said.
The cities are fortified from all sides with barricades and security checkpoints, and there are ongoing military operations to hunt down ISIS remnants, who have fled into the desert, he said.
Iraqi forces have combed 14,000 square kilometres of Anbar’s western desert in pursuit of ISIS remnants.
During these operations, they were able to destroy ISIS bases and stores that contained improvised explosive devices (IEDs), car bombs and other vehicles carrying single-barrel machine guns, tankers and motorcycles.