Shaken by car bomb, Mo­sul fears re­turn of Daesh

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - REGION -

MO­SUL, Iraq: A deadly car bomb in Iraq’s Mo­sul, the first since the city was re­cap­tured from mil­i­tants, has left res­i­dents shaken and ter­ri­fied that past night­mares are re­turn­ing to haunt them.

The blast late Thurs­day hit the pop­u­lar Abu Layla restau­rant in Mo­sul, the north­ern city that for three years served as Daesh’s (ISIS) Iraq head­quar­ters.

When res­i­dents awoke to the scene of destruc­tion Fri­day morn­ing, they feared their bloody past with Daesh was not yet be­hind them.

“We were lib­er­ated, so we thought that se­cu­rity was back,” Mossab, a 25-year-old restau­rant em­ployee, told AFP. “But now it’s worse than ever.” Three peo­ple were killed and 12 wounded in the bomb­ing, med­i­cal and se­cu­rity sources said.

The restau­rant suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant dam­age. One side, which sits on a road junc­tion, seemed to have its win­dows blown out and the fa­cade partly sheared off.

The cars in the street all had shat­tered or cracked wind­screens and were cov­ered in black ash and de­bris.

Mossab’s car, parked nearby, was one of them. “I’ve been work­ing for four years to save up to buy it, but it all went in the blink of an eye,” he said, dev­as­tated.

Iraqi se­cu­rity forces de­ployed out­side the restau­rant Fri­day, stand­ing guard as clean­ing crews worked to re­move the de­bris.

Res­i­dents ner­vously came to in­spect the dam­age.

Khodor Ali, a 38-year-old who lives nearby, was wor­ried there would be more vi­o­lence.

“If the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion stays like this, then our fu­ture is in the gut­ter,” he said.

Troops and paramil­i­taries re­cap­tured Mo­sul in July last year, months be­fore the gov­ern­ment de­clared Daesh had fi­nally been de­feated in Iraq.

But the group still car­ries out bloody hit-and-run at­tacks, mostly in the rugged moun­tains of the north and in desert areas along the west­ern bor­der with Syria.

Se­cu­rity forces fre­quently ar­rest sus­pected mil­i­tants or break up sleeper cells, and are still un­cov­er­ing mil­i­tant tun­nels along with hide­outs in Mo­sul.

There was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity for Thurs­day’s at­tack, but a state­ment by se­cu­rity forces blamed it on “ter­ror­ists.”

Ali said Iraqi of­fi­cials were at least partly to blame for Thurs­day night’s at­tack.

“If they weren’t able to pro­tect the city, they shouldn’t stay,” he ex­claimed an­grily.

“The only thing th­ese of­fi­cials want are se­nior posts. They told us, ‘Daesh is fin­ished’ – but then there’s a car bomb that kills in­no­cent peo­ple,” he added.

City of­fi­cials have pointed the fin­ger at the se­cu­rity forces de­ployed across Mo­sul.

“One of the main rea­sons we’re see­ing a de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion is that there are too many de­ci­sion-mak­ers,” said mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for Mo­sul, Ah­mad al-Jarba.

Be­tween Iraq’s cen­tral mil­i­tary com­mand and the Hashed al-Shaabi para­mil­i­tary force, both of which are sta­tioned in and around Mo­sul, there were mixed sig­nals on se­cu­rity, Jarba said.

He said en­demic cor­rup­tion had also played a role.

Iraq is ranked the 12th most cor­rupt coun­try in the world, ac­cord­ing to mon­i­tor­ing group Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional.

Mo­sul’s res­i­dents have shoul­dered much of the re­build­ing them­selves, open­ing restau­rants and shops along the Ti­gris river that di­vides the city in two.

But af­ter Thurs­day’s blast, the specter of Daesh seems closer than they had thought. –

‘If the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion stays like this, then our fu­ture is in the gut­ter’

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