Iraqis cross the floating bridge between east and west of Mosul, Iraq, July 21, 2017. REUTERS/Khalid Al-Mousily
By Angus MacSwan
MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) – On a pontoon bridge connecting East and West Mosul, residents of a city shattered by the battle to expel Islamic State cross back and forth trying to rebuild their lives from the rubble.
The temporary structure, known as the Victory Bridge, is the only crossing over the Tigris River in the city itself. Other bridges, including the landmark Iron Bridge, were wrecked in nine months of urban warfare which saw Iraqi government forces fight the militants street-by-street and house-by-house.
With Mosul back in government hands, hundreds of people stream over each day to check homes in the devastated west side, salvage belongings or find a place to stay in the east.
All have tales of hardship and suffering under three years of Islamic State rule and, despite their relief that is over, now they are worried about their present predicament and the future.
Many people from West Mosul, where whole neighbourhoods were flattened in air and artillery strikes by a U.S-.led coalition, are struggling to pay rent in temporary accommodation. Often they have no work and are running out of funds.
Safwan al-Habar, 48, who has a house in al-Zinjili district, had spent a morning seeking help for a particularly alarming problem — Islamic State had booby-trapped his house.
“Two bombs attached to each other with wire. If you put your leg on it, it will explode,” he said.
“Do you know anyone who can remove it?” he asked. “Every day I go to the military and every day they say come back tomorrow. I am in a mess. I’m paying rent but I want to go home.”
Civilians must walk across the bridge, which was erected for military purposes. Taxis halt on the east side about half a km (mile) away for soldiers to check papers.