CHAOS AND NEGLECT SLOW IRAQI CITY’S RECOVERY

CHAOS AND NEGLECT SLOW IRAQI CITY’S RECOVERY

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(Reuters) The demolition of a wrecked building in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul where ISIS used to execute men they said were gay is already in its third month.

Homeless boys who hunt for scrap in the remains of the former National Insurance Company building work quicker some days than the lone digger perched on its crumbling carcass.

Two years after the battle in which Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul from IS, the authorities do not own enough equipment to clear the rubble littered across the city.

Hundreds of Mosul council’s vehicles were destroyed in fighting or used by IS as suicide bombs. Few have been replaced.

Companies hired by the governor on lucrative contracts to make up the shortfall work deliberately slowly, or sometimes do not exist, lawmakers and locals say.

Mosul was held by IS for three years. Under the militant group’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, homosexuality is a grave sin punishable by death. But rights activists say those executed in the seven-storey insurance building, now reduced to two floors, were often IS opponents who were falsely accused.

The digger on top of the building is hired for $300 a day, a laborer at the site said. It often stands idle.

The regional governor denies allegations of fraud and says not enough money is coming to his office to fund rehabilitation.

Many residents are struggling financially. Families forced to build their own homes go into debt, borrowing from friends and living off charity. Others cram into increasingly expensive rented homes. Foreign-funded projects also suffer delays.

“There’s no strategic plan. It’s chaos,” lawmaker Mohamed Nuri Abed Rabbo said.

Poor planning allows mismanagement of reconstruction efforts and alleged corruption, making recovery slow and haphazard. In this environment, residents fear the remnants of IS will again exploit resentment.

“The city’s being rebuilt only on paper,” said Abu Ali Neshwan, a 52-year-old shopkeeper. “There’s no state here. Corruption’s everywhere.”

Abdelsattar al-Hibbu, who is in charge of the municipal government — and is still recognized by Baghdad as such, despite the governor’s attempts to remove him — said the little money allocated to Mosul was being misspent.

“With the amount spent so far on removing rubble, the city could have been completely cleared by now,” he said by telephone. Of an estimated 7 million tonnes of debris, more than half remains, he said.

Hibbu warned last year that there was simply not enough money to rebuild.

The 2019 state budget allocates $560 million for Mosul’s reconstruction, according to two Mosul lawmakers. A U.N. advisor in the city said one estimated cost for one year of rebuilding work was $1.8 billion.

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