Sign In / Up

Add contribution as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment

Comment as a guest

Your email will not be displayed publicly
Benefit of signing in/signing up to personalize comment


Not a member Register   Forgot Password
or connect using





Desperate to come home, Syrians brave ISIS mines in Raqqa

By AFP 16/2/2018
A boy stands near shells and undetonated mines lying in a Raqqa street, left behind by ISIS. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
A boy stands near shells and undetonated mines lying in a Raqqa street, left behind by ISIS. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP
by Delil Souleiman

Mohammed Kuraji returned to Syria's Raqqa to prepare a homecoming but ended up organising a funeral. Stepping into his home, an unexploded mine detonated and killed his elderly father.

"It was terrifying. The blast was so strong that I couldn't hear," said the 26-year-old, who was also wounded in the incident two months ago.

ISIS was ousted from its de facto Syrian capital Raqqa in October, but it left mines scattered across the ravaged city.

Residents are desperate to return home, but they are being maimed and killed by unexploded – and sometimes insidiously hidden – ordnance.

Under piles of rubble, behind old refrigerator doors, in blown-out buildings, ISIS has sown death everywhere.

The explosives in Kuraji's home were triggered when his father leaned down to pick up a copy of the Koran.

"I was thrown back into the neighbour's house and a wall collapsed onto my father," said Kuraji, who has two young children.

He spoke to AFP from under a mountain of blankets, pulling back the covers to reveal his legs, set in place by splints and screws in his shins.

- Mine hunting -

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces ousted ISIS from Raqqa in October, then handed the city over to the Raqqa Civil Council.

But Raqqa natives are complaining that demining firms hired by the RCC are taking too long, and have taken matters into their own hands.

Young men are charging up to $100 to search and clear homes of mines – a small fortune for war-weary Syrians.

"It's becoming a lucrative business. The officials are ignoring it, and we don't have the means," said resident Hamed Saleh, 28.

A large part of his home in Raqqa is inaccessible because of mines.

"At any moment, even if a cat is just passing by, a bomb could go off. It's terrifying," said Saleh.

A man holds an undetonated mine left by ISIS in Raqqa. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP


According to Human Rights Watch, local officials were receiving about 10 requests for house inspections for a single neighbourhood, every day.

But they were only able to clear about 10 cases per week across the entire city, the New York-based rights group said this week.

It documented at least 491 people, including 157 children, wounded in mine blasts, many of whom died.

Goh Mayama of the aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said his clinic receives an average of six mine blast casualties a day on average in Raqqa, about a quarter of whom die.

- 'A view to kill' -

Demining operations in Raqqa have been supported by the US-led coalition that backed the SDF's drive against ISIS.

In December, the SDF said it had demined half the city.

"The hospitals, public institutions, schools, power stations and bakeries are all demined," said SDF official Lokman Khalil.

"Raqqa's a big city. There's a huge number of mines and it'll take time," he told AFP.

He said the SDF had tried to keep civilians away, but Raqqa natives eager to leave displacement camps and come home had ramped up the pressure.

Now, the city's main streets have been cleared for traffic, though mounds of debris still line the sidewalks.

Outside one damaged building, a group of children in oversized sweaters rummage through a pile of twisted metal and corrugated iron.

Men with picks and shovels poke through the ruins, emerging occasionally with an unexploded mine.

"We're paying people out of our own pockets to clear our streets and houses," said Abu Mohammed, a resident in his forties.

The four-storey apartment building he owns has been completely destroyed, but he cannot begin rebuilding because of mines inside.

"I have three kids. I keep them locked at home so that mines don't go off as they walk in the streets," he said.

According to the United Nations, some 60,000 people have returned to Raqqa despite warnings of the danger.

"The number of unexploded ordnance in Raqqa is something that we have never seen before. It's extreme," said Panos Moumtzis, the UN regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria.

Between 50 and 70 people were being wounded or killed every week because of mines in the city.
"Just to give you a point of comparison, it's the number that takes place in Afghanistan in a year," Moumtzis said.

"It's planted with a view to kill."


Mohamedzzz | 16/2/2018
They prefere to die than to continue live under Erdogan's Turkey.

Be Part of Your Rudaw!

Share your stories, photos and videos with Rudaw, and quite possibly the world.

What You Say

Not yet | 3/23/2019 9:28:18 AM
One of the most brutal terrorist organizations ISIS has lost all it's territory thanks to the sacrifices of Kurdish forces from all parts of...
Thank you Kurds | 3/23/2019 9:37:36 AM
Kurdish lead SDF lost 8000 fighters and were central in defeating ISIL in Rojava and rest of Syria, but let's also not forget that ISIL's first real...
SDF declare ‘total elimination’ of ISIS caliphate
| 23 hours ago | (2)
Afrin is Kurdish | 3/23/2019 8:12:22 AM
Turkey must be expelled from Afrin and other Kurdish territories .
Karl Reiter | 3/23/2019 8:18:42 AM
There is no problem with Golan since the 1967 war.The problem was before that date,not after.The UN has no say over Golan since it tolerates and it...
Trump’s Golan statement draws strong regional condemnation
| yesterday at 08:49 | (2)
Artush | 3/23/2019 3:37:17 AM
FLynn the fake spy traitor criminal and his mullah boss contractor, same ppl recommended James Mattis to Trump to become DS. https://heavy...
IranMan | 3/23/2019 5:56:04 AM
@pre-Boomer Marine brat, Mahabad was Soviet invention that had to be eradicated - I'm referring to the "Jomhuri-e-Mahabad" not the city. The Iranian...
Iran leader dismisses Europe trade mechanism as 'bitter joke'
| 21/3/2019 | (10)
kurd | 3/22/2019 12:00:59 PM
The real problem is a bunch thieves who are running the country. corruption has been a reward of islamic revolution. country is drowning in...
luv u 2 hunibuni | 3/23/2019 4:19:13 AM
The devastating victim card stories again by iranian "refugees" !! About how sanctions hurts iranian "middle class"? REALLY? Iranian middle class ??...
Iran leader calls economy 'urgent problem'
| 21/3/2019 | (6)

Elsewhere on Rudaw

Iraqi fisherman flounder on the Shatt al-Arab 8 hours ago |

Iraqi fisherman flounder on the Shatt al-Arab

Iran and Kuwait prevent them from fishing further more
Trump: ISIS ‘are losers, will always be losers’ 9 hours ago |

Trump: ISIS ‘are losers, will always be losers’

"We will remain vigilant" more
ISIS loses all territory but its shadowy leader still at large 10 hours ago |

ISIS loses all territory but its shadowy leader still at large

“The Coalition is not holding him nor do we know more
0.484 seconds