ISIL has been defeated as an occupying power in Iraq. Its “conventional” forces are almost all dead, and the survivors have disintegrated into small cells, which are still active in Iraq and elsewhere and trying to maintain what influence they can by terrorism. However, Strategy Page reports that ISIL terrorism isn’t limited to current actions. It’s also affecting millions through its earlier incarnation.
The Iraqi government has encountered a major problem with people who fled their homes to escape approaching ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) forces. Many of these civilians have been refugees for nearly five years. Overall more than five million Iraqis fled to avoid living under ISIL rule. Over a million are still unable to return home and most of these civilians are from cities and large towns that ISIL occupied for at least a few years.
. . .
By 2016 it was apparent that ISIL had decided on a suitable punishment [for those who fled]. This consisted of planting hidden bombs in the homes or businesses of departed civilians, especially those who were known (or suspected) to have later cooperated with the government against ISIL. As a result over a million internal refugees will not return home because the homes, and the neighborhoods they are in, have not yet been cleared of such explosive traps.
The worst situation is in Mosul where the situation is complicated by the many buildings that were rigged with these explosive traps but were then destroyed by artillery or smart bombs by the advancing Iraqi forces. There are still over seven million tons of such rubble and debris waiting to be cleared and that task is complicated by the fact that most (at least 60 percent) of the remaining explosive traps are buried under that rubble. While some of these explosive traps were set off when the building was reduced to rubble, many were not. Even if the triggering mechanism was destroyed, the explosives and detonators remain.
Clearing such rubble piles is dangerous and expensive. The fact that the rubble occupies prime city real estate further complicates the situation. None of the dangers are theoretical because EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams have already found and removed (or destroyed in place) 44,000 “explosive hazards.” Less than half these hazards were explosive traps, but that was enough to supply EOD analysts with sufficient data to estimate how many more of these hazards there were still waiting to be found. While this is pretty scary for the rubble clearance crews and EOD teams, the risks are also well known to many of the remaining refugees. Many have lost friends or family to these ISIL bombs and refuse to return until certain the bombs are gone.
There’s more at the link.
I’ve seen the same result in various parts of Africa, where large swaths of terrain were sown with landmines without any care or concern to map or document their locations. The various parties to the fighting eventually moved on, but left these instruments of death in place. As a result, four out of the top 10 most landmine-infested countries are African. Left-behind landmines kill thousands of people every year, and injure tens of thousands more. They also render land unproductive, because if it’s not safe to enter an area, farming, mining and other productive uses of that land are simply impossible.
Iraq’s facing a similar problem now, thanks to ISIL booby-traps. Not only are entire neighborhoods off-limits to their former residents due to the risk of explosions, but the economic potential of those neighborhoods is lost, because it’s not safe to work there. Worse still, the refugees displaced from their homes and places of work by these booby-traps must be housed, fed and clothed by the government, diverting vital national income from other priorities to their support. The “knock-on effect” is huge.
Iraq isn’t alone in having problems with left-over munitions of war, of course. Afghanistan is suffering more landmine casualties (10-12 every day, according to one source) among its civilian population than any other nation. This is a factor fueling illegal migration from such conflict zones to safer Western countries. It’s not just the lack of education or economic opportunity in their home countries that drives many migrants; it’s the danger of staying there. When one’s life, or the life of family members, is not unlikely to be drastically affected by explosive devices, there’s a great incentive to move somewhere else!
Of course, I’m opposed to illegal immigration to/in this country, and I’ve said so many times in the past: but we should understand the very real concerns that drive at least some illegal migrants. In some cases, they really are running for their lives. If we want to stem the tide of illegal migrants, we should consider how we can make it safer for them to stay at home.