MOSUL • Iraqi forces fought to eliminate the last pockets of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) resistance in Mosul yesterday after three years of occupation that left a trail of human misery and devastation that could cost US$100 billion (S$140 billion) to repair.
Power and water supplies will be restored in the first phase of a 10-year programme to rebuild Mosul, much of which was reduced to rubble during nine months of fighting, Planning Ministry spokesman Abdul Zahra Al-Hindawi said by phone yesterday.
But in a sign of the immense challenges ahead, he estimated that reconstructing all areas of Iraq that fell to ISIS would cost at least US$50 billion, and maybe double that amount. Iraq wants to hold a donor conference in Kuwait by early next year.
"The government is intensifying efforts to restore life in the destroyed areas," Mr Mudher Saleh, economic adviser to Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, said by phone.
Mr Nofal al-Hammad, the governor of Nineveh province, whose capital is Mosul, said on Sunday that destruction in the city's west, where the military campaign entered its final phase in mid-June, is 30 times greater than in the east, liberated in January, according to a report by the Rudaw news agency.
The United Nations (UN) has said as many as 150,000 residents were trapped in the Old City when the battle there began, with illness and disease spreading as clean drinking water, food and medicine ran low.
Lieutenant-General Sami al-Aridhi of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service said there were still about 4,000 civilians in the area but that could not be independently confirmed.
He said the militants had been reduced to an area of the Old City of about 200m by 100m.
"They do not accept surrender," Lt-Gen Aridhi told Agence France-Presse. But "operations are in their final stages".
The UN has said 920,000 people fled their homes during the Mosul operation, and while some have returned, the vast majority remain displaced.
"It's a relief to know that the military campaign in Mosul is ending. The fighting may be over, but the humanitarian crisis is not," Ms Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said yesterday it could be many months before civilians are able to return to their homes.
"Many have nothing to go back to due to extensive damage caused during the conflict, while key basic services such as water, electricity and other key infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, will need to be rebuilt or repaired," the UNHCR said in a statement.
Twenty-eight aid groups working in Iraq issued a statement calling for international support for rebuilding efforts and urged the authorities not to press civilians to return. "Remaining insecurity, lack of basic services, explosive hazards contamination, and damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure - including schools and hospitals - all continue to pose barriers to return," said the statement signed by groups, including the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam and Save the Children.
It also raised concerns for Iraqis still in areas under ISIS control, including the towns of Tal Afar and Hawijah in the north, as well as territory in western Anbar province.
"For the expected offensives in Hawijah, Tal Afar and western Anbar, where approximately 150,000 civilians are thought to still be trapped, it is vital that lessons are learnt from past offensives," the aid groups said.
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE