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Bodies of Mosul civilians contaminate water, threaten epidemic

Published: March 19, 2018
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Source: RUDAW

Mosul, Iraq – Heaps of bodies are being uncovered amongst the rubble of Mosul and in its river, threatening contamination and a public health emergency. Human remains are almost indistinguishable from the debris of ruined buildings.

During the nine months of fighting, the city of Mosul came under bombardment by US-led coalition warplanes at least 30,000 times. This is in addition to airstrikes carried out by Iraqi fighter jets.

Neither the Iraqi government nor its coalition partners admit it was due to their airstrikes that thousands of people became victims.

“What is left behind? Everything is gone, including our vehicles, houses and money. Nothing is left for us,” one resident told Rudaw.

The Iraqi government is now working to clear the main roads through the city. As the loaders work through the debris, the skeletons of children, women and the elderly appear. The front loaders, without separating the skeletons, load them together with the remnants of destruction for disposal.

One of the workers clearing the site, Zanoon Ahmed, showed Rudaw a number of the houses were bodies have been found piled high. 

Going to these sites is difficult. Besides the smell, it is also dangerous as booby traps pose a serious hazard.

According to Ahmed, wild animals eat the flesh of the dead bodies during the night. 

Some of the bodied are dumped in the river. Many more are lay scattered on the riverbanks, yet people continue to drink the water.

“We all drink from this water. And it is full of bodies. There are a few here. But if you go up the river, there is a thousand there, even more than that including children, women and elderly. What is really important is that these bodies have to be removed from the river and the area cleaned,” Hamid Mohammed, the chieftain of the Maydan neighborhood, told Rudaw.


A handful of people have returned to the east side of Mosul. Those who have returned are being diagnosed with diseases. Mohammed says there are 3,000 bodies in his district alone.

“The dead bodies that have lay scattered in Maydan neighborhood are myriad. There are nearly two to three thousand. This is a big problem, leading to the spread of serious and chronic epidemics,” he said.


According to data from the Iraqi government, nearly 3,000 civilians were killed during the nine month battle.

Hospitals in Mosul have so far recovered 1,560 unidentified bodies, of which 450 are thought to be ISIS militants.

Data provided by some media outlets and international organizations put the death toll among civilians at 45,000.

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