Christmas in ruins: Santas barely find kids to hand presents to in devastated Mosul

Men dressed as Santa Claus walking through a ruined city may seem like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie, but that’s how Christmas looks in Mosul, a former ISIS stronghold leveled to the ground in a US-backed liberation op. READ MORE: https://on.rt.com/9lg4

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Iraq lays cornerstone to rebuild iconic Mosul mosque

Iraqis lay the cornerstone in rebuilding Mosul’s Al-Nuri mosque and leaning minaret, national emblems destroyed last year in the ferocious battle against the Islamic State group. The famed 12th century mosque and minaret, dubbed Al-Hadba or “the hunchback,” were where IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public appearance to declare a self-styled “caliphate” after sweeping into Mosul in 2014.

Iraq lays cornerstone to rebuild iconic Mosul mosque

Iraqis lay the cornerstone in rebuilding Mosul’s Al-Nuri mosque and leaning minaret, national emblems destroyed last year in the ferocious battle against the Islamic State group. The famed 12th century mosque and minaret, dubbed Al-Hadba or “the hunchback,” were where IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public appearance to declare a self-styled “caliphate” after sweeping into Mosul in 2014.

Iraq one year on: ‘Millions spent on bombs but not aid is unacceptable’

It’s been one year since Iraq claimed victory over Islamic State.

The defeat of the terrorist group came a few months after Iraqi armed forces secured control over the major urban areas – particularly the country’s second largest city of Mosul.

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ISIS Is Still Attacking Mosul, 18 Months After The City Was Liberated (HBO)

Rajab Younes Rajab walks through the ruins of Mosul’s Old City, pointing at homes where his friends used to live. “I saw people dying in front of me and I couldn’t help them,” he says. During the 2017 battle to recapture the city from ISIS, the west of the city was decimated, killing thousands. Homes and businesses were also destroyed — and Rajab’s home was no different.

Rajab says he’s still haunted by what he witnessed – he has insomnia and still mourns the friends he lost in the battle. ‘I used to see my friends more than I saw my family,’ he says tearily.

For him, returning to rebuild the family home was something he initially refused to do. But his father, Younes, couldn’t keep paying for rented accommodation elsewhere. Remarkably, some eighteen months since the city was liberated, theirs is the first home in the neighborhood to be completed – but Rajab isn’t in the mood for celebrating.

‘One of the reasons is the number of tragedies I’ve seen here,’ he says. ‘Perhaps no one’s ever witnessed what I did. ‘As soon as I leave the house, I thought I was going to die. I was targeted by a sniper more than six times. He almost killed me the last time.’

Rajab shares the anger of many here in Mosul’s Old City – a growing annoyance at the slow pace of reconstruction in the city and the apparent lack of government money to help residents rebuild. His father used the family savings to complete the project. ‘Nothing has changed here, two years after the liberation. When they published Iraq’s draft 2019 budget, Mosul got one percent,’ Rajab says.

The city may have been liberated nearly 18 months ago – but ISIS is still a looming threat here. Four teenagers were killed on their way to school two weeks ago, and a car bomb outside a popular restaurant in the city a month ago, killed three. But the authorities are keen to downplay ISIS’ presence, blaming political elements for the recent violence.

For the older generation like his father, returning home has been the priority. Of the current security situation in the city, Younes says, ‘Some incidents happen here and there but the state is in control. I’m not worried at all.’

Listening to his father, Rajab shakes his head angrily. He believes if things don’t improve soon, the city’s youth could be lured back into ISIS’ grasp. ‘It’s not safe at all. I am worried about my own life. I’m worried about my family when even now, ISIS members and leaders are still here. I was surprised by the recent explosions. It means there are sleeper cells. The government should stop them and stop them from expanding again.’

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After years of silence, music fills streets of Iraq’s Mosul

For centuries, the Iraqi city of Mosul was a magnet for artists across the region and churned out Iraq’s best musicians — but it suffered a devastating ban on music under the rule of the Islamic State group. Now free from jihadi rule since July 2017, Mosul is starting to make a musical comeback.

Iraq’s Mosul logs civil records lost to years of IS rule

Mosul residents issued with documents from ministries and courts under the rule of the Islamic State group, flood Nineveh governorate civil registry office in masses to get their official identity papers since the paperwork given by the jihadists is not recognised by the Iraqi authorities.