Why many Fallujah Residents have yet to Return Home

By Shelly Kittleson for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Two car bombs hit central Fallujah Nov. 14, killing several civilians and members of the security forces. A curfew has been imposed. This is the first security breach in the city after its liberation in June.

Almost five months after being retaken from the Islamic State (IS) following hard-won battles lasting several weeks, Iraq’s “city of mosques” is slowly being repopulated.

Several mosques can be seen from the city’s main streets, damaged but still standing. A popular restaurant called Badiya (Desert) seems busy during lunchtime, mostly with security forces. Central streets have been cleared, and many of the city’s severely damaged, pastel and desert-colored, low-slung buildings are under repair.

Fallujah Mayor Issa Saer al-Assawi told Al-Monitor that many basic services had been partially restored and that about half of the inhabitants had returned to the city as of Nov. 9.

He said that out of roughly “54,000 families total, around 27,500 have returned.” The city, located about 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of the capital in the restive Anbar province, had a reported population of just under 300,000 five years ago.

Fallujah was the first major city taken by IS in Iraq, some six months before Mosul. It had long been a stronghold of Sunni opposition to the Shiite-led central government after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the insurgency against US forces.

The city is infamous among the Western public for being the place where four US contractors working for the Blackwater private military company were dragged from their vehicle, killed and hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River on March 31, 2004. This ambush was followed by what are known as the first and second battles of Fallujah, in April and November 2004, respectively.

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