Hundreds of bodies remain under the rubble of buildings in the city of Mosul which witnessed a near total destruction during the battles to retake it from the Islamic State (IS) group.
Insufficient efforts have been made by the Iraqi authorities since July 2017 to retrieve bodies buried under debris, particularly in the old city of Mosul.
The clearing process In Ninewa province began in May 2018; government teams and volunteers retrieved the remains of 5,000 bodies of civilians and IS militants.
Head of the Civil Defense Directorate in Ninewa province, Colonel Hussam Khalil Abdul speaking to KirkukNow, said, "In the first phase of the process, we recovered the bodies of 2,067 civilians, then we retrieved 2,850 bodies which belonged to IS fighters.”
The search teams were formed by members of the Directorate of Civil Defense, the Municipalities and Health Departments at the request of the Iraqi Prime Minister.
"Between 95% to 98% of the bodies have been retrieved, however our work is not done yet; Whenever citizens contact us in case they suspect the presence of bodies under rubble our teams directly heads to that place to recover the bodies," said Colonel Hussam Khalil .
The battles to retake the city of Mosul from the grip of IS lasted for more than nine months and ended in April 2017. Hundreds of civilians, including women and children, were killed, in addition to a large numbers of IS fighters.
Siroor Abdul-Karim, who supervises a volunteer group which helper authorities in the efforts to retrieve hundreds of bodies said, "Our work was difficult and risky. Despite the risk of booby traps and the disturbing smell of rotting we were able to help recover 1,000 bodies."
The volunteer group, which was established at the end of 2017, includes 40 young men and women.
After obtaining official approval from the Mosul administration, the group embarked on its gruesome task in 2018.
However, according to the team leader, the volunteer group suspended its work due to disagreements with the former governor of Ninewa.
"We worked for only five months… Although a new governor has taken office, no one asked us to resume our work." Siroor said.
According to figures released by the Iraqi Commission for Human Rights, the bodies of more than 800 children were among those recovered in Mosul; most of them were found in the western side of the city.
"At the beginning many families in Mosul were coming to the forensic medicine department to search for loved ones among bodies which were brought here, but this is very rare now as the bodies of most of the civilians recovered. What remains, mostly belong to IS fighters," said Khidir Elyas, head of Ninewa provincial council’s health committee.
A large part of Iraq's northern province of Ninewa, including its capital Mosul, fell under the IS control in June 2014.
Hassan Nawaf, head of the forensic medicine department in Ninewa indicates that “the search for bodies has stopped, except when we are contacted by citizens who suspect the presence of bodies under the rubble.”
"Usually, when people find bodies when they rehabilitate their devastated houses and immediately call the civil defense teams, who later transfer the bodies to the forensic department," he added.