Containing Sectarian Violence in Mosul
"The atmosphere is good. The wells are almost fully under control. They extinguished most. Some of them are still ablaze, but we see the morning, we can see the sun."
"Ten days ago, this sky was completely dark. You couldn't distinguish day from night."
Mohannad Seoud Ahmad Matar, Qayara shop owner
"The work accelerated since the security situation improved."
"But it's still unclear how long it will take to finish, as there are still fires in wells and scattered oil pools."
Assem Jihad, Iraqi Oil Ministry spokesman
"People usually came to our health center seeking treatment for symptoms like fever, coughing, respiratory problems, diarrhea and asthma complications."
"Now that the main oil fire is not burning anymore, the number of patients is down. So it's an improvement from when we first came — then there was no medication or health care here."
Dr. Tayseer Alkarim, oncologist, WAHA, France-based group
Oil workers and firefighters have finally succeeded in putting out some of the oil well fires set by retreating Islamic State fighters months ago, close to the Iraqi town of Qayara, not far from Mosul. There were 54 wells in the area that once pumped close to ten thousand barrels daily. And then ISIL took the fields in 2014 and everything changed for the residents. Sighting from the town's edge at this point, five well heads can still be viewed burning at different sites.
But eight of those wells that once were also burning after having been deliberately torched by the retreating fighters, were successfully extinguished in the past several weeks, most of the wells located close to the town's homes. The town's residents were resentful of how long it had taken the government to tend to the incendiary misery they were living with while in their defence authorities cited security concerns with militants still firing mortars into the area.
Attention also had to be focused on clearing the booby traps and unexploded ordinance that Islamic State so thoughtfully left behind in their wake. Bulldozers in nearby oilfields shovelled dirt over the burning ground in efforts to smother the flames. But black crude flowed opportunistically in other, newly-made streams in concert with each of the bulldozers' shovelling, making it obvious that their efforts were entirely in vain.
When Qayara was liberated from Islamic State jihadis by the Iraqi security forces, retaliatory violence followed as ISIL fighters retreated, the Iraqi forces feeling entitled to believe that ISIL had support from the Sunni residents of the town. The violence that took place ensured that distrust between the Shiite military and the Sunni residents of Qayara was at an understandably high level. The government of Iraq understands well that its response in badly needed services at this juncture could go far to normalizing reconciliation.