Reconstructing a city that survived ISIS: how G4S contributes to the rebuilding of Iraq
Iraq has been decimated by four decades of war, dictatorship, invasion and instability.
Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, lived under three years of ISIS rule after it was taken in June 2014. Much of the city’s critical infrastructure – including roads, bridges, water supplies, hospitals, schools and power stations – was turned to rubble after it sustained heavy bombardment during the eight month offensive to retake the city.
A year on and the city is already showing signs of recovery: newly installed, modern-looking street lights line the road to the city; fashionable stores and restaurants are beginning to occupy the streets once again.
Under the management of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and together with Al Saqar, the in-country Explosive Ordnance Disposal partner, G4S is helping people to restore their lives and re-occupy their city, and use the infrastructures and basic facilities that they once enjoyed.
Our work in Iraq
G4S operations in Mosul began on 17 July 2018. As directed and managed by UNMAS, the G4S Ordnance Management (OM) team together with Al Saqar teams clear explosives and other forms of ordnance from sites that were once occupied by ISIS.
Daily tasks involve Non-Technical Searches (NTS), engagement with the residents through a Community Liaison Officer (CLO), operational mentoring and training, manual searching of explosives, and explosive ordnance disposals.
G4S is currently working on clearing schools, public parks, municipality buildings, health centres, hospitals, factories, water canals, water treatment plants and other infrastructure; a crucial challenge is to ensure that there are no explosive hazards buried underneath the ground.
G4S and Al Saqar teams have already cleared an extensive part of the Al Maedan/Maidan area of West Mosul, where ISIS held their last stand before they were defeated by the Iraqi forces.
On a daily basis, G4S encounters Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) including Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) that they clear and safely move to onsite Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) storage area.
Since operations began in July, the G4S teams have cleared a substantial number of explosive hazards from schools, some of which were used by ISIS as bomb making factories. During the three-year ISIS rule, children were deprived of education and thus the clearance of these schools has played a significant role towards restoring normality, with children now able to return to school.
On a daily basis, the teams clear various explosive devices that have been found, including homemade bombs, unexploded mortars, grenades, suicide belts and vests, drones and other explosives and ERW. When deemed ‘safe to be moved’, these explosives are moved to an UXO storage area. If the explosives found are not ‘safe to move’, these are marked and reported to the Iraqi Security Force (ISF).
Another significant role that G4S and Al Saqar play in the reconstruction of Mosul, is that of Risk Education. G4S Community Liaison Officers alert and educate residents to the risks of explosive remnants of war that they will likely encounter in their neighbourhood, and what to do if they find themselves in danger. Risk education is particularly important for children who are inquisitive by nature and would be vulnerable to an ERW should they not know when to exercise caution.
Upcoming tasks include getting involved in the prestigious multi-agency plan to provide fresh, clean drinking water through new pipelines across Mosul, which will reach up to 15,000 local people. G4S will provide Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD)/Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (IEDD) cover. All workers and local contractors will also receive IED and UXO recognition education.
Securing the security
The G4S OM team are able to carry out their tasks successfully with support from the security cover provided by the G4S Protection Security Detail (PSD) teams and medics.
The main role of the security teams is to protect the Clearance Team Leader (TL) and or Technical Adviser (TA) who are working, advising and mentoring Al Saqar while they conduct the operations. The PSD Team Leader protects the TL or TA, while the rest of the team provide a broader security watch, provide a cordon to block a road while an explosive device is being moved, or provide protection to the local community if a device is being worked on.
What a typical day looks like
The G4S team meet the Al Saqar teams close to the G4S Mosul villa – a site of a fully operational centre that doubles as a secure and safe accommodation base to support all the projects in the north of Iraq – for a quick briefing and run through of the tasks lined up for the day. They then set off on task with the G4S Mentor—the International G4S EOD and IEDD qualified operator is employed to train, guide and mentor the local national teams in Mosul and soon, Kirkuk – along with the G4S PSD team and Tier 2 Medics.
First stop of the day: Hamdaniyah Police Directorate Building. The building was occupied by ISIS from February 2014 to 20 August 2016. ISIS reportedly used the building as a prison, small bomb making factory and armoury for weapons and IEDs.
Prior to commencing the task, the details of the operation are logged, such as the medical evacuation point, the communication equipment being used, and the number of working teams.
During a search of the building and its perimeter, at least one IED main charge – the explosive component of the device – was identified within the building.
The second stop of the day: Ibn Alather area. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) requested UNMAS to provide a G4S clearance team to assist them with an IED that was found just in the children’s play area.
The surrounding area was cleared of all residents while the teams worked to ensure that the IED was safe to be moved. Simultaneously, the community liaison team provided Risk Education to the residents in the area and handed out leaflets.
One of our PSD local nationals was once a resident in the area. His home was destroyed during the ISIS invasion. The resilience and dedication of the G4S local nationals despite their suffering is unparalleled.
En-route to the third and final task for the day, G4S was alerted to two mortars that were found by civilians and handed over to the Iraqi Security Forces. These mortars were moved to the storage truck by G4S.
The ongoing restoration of Mosul
It will take years to remove all of the explosives from the city. The G4S team, together with Al Saqar, are making daily progress, risking their own lives to clear one site at a time. Small but sure steps towards rebuilding Mosul.
But for now, the city is still in ruins. Wandering the streets where piles of debris have been pushed aside to make a pathway, there is a fully operational bakery; for Iraqis, life goes on amongst the rubble.
Perhaps one day we will see a restored and safe city, where G4S can take pride in the contribution it has made in rebuilding Mosul.