1,500 Schools Damaged, Destroyed in Anbar

1,500 Schools Damaged, Destroyed in Anbar1,500 Schools Damaged, Destroyed in Anbar

More than 1,500 schools have been damaged or destroyed as a result of the conflict in Iraq’s troubled Anbar Province alone since the beginning of 2014, a provincial spokesman said Monday.

“Anbar has been hit badly ... More than 1,500 schools have been partially or completely destroyed,” Eid Ammash, a spokesman for the provincial council said, AFP reported.

“Most of these schools were targeted directly by the criminal gangs of Daesh,” Ammash said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State group. “The others are places that Daesh used as bases and were targeted by the Iraqi security forces and the coalition air force, or were simply on the frontline of the fighting.”

Anbar is Iraq’s largest province. It has been rocked by violence since the start of 2014, months before the IS militants launched a massive nationwide offensive that saw it seize swathes of the country.

It is currently the main focus of the government’s efforts to regain lost ground, with large military operations underway in several parts of the province and multiple daily airstrikes by warplanes from a US-led coalition.

“It will take a lot of money and at least two and a half years after Anbar is fully retaken from Daesh for these schools to be rebuilt and rehabilitated,” Ammash said.

He said no area was spared, with damaged schools from Karma, near Baghdad, to Al-Qaim on the Syrian border, as well as in areas around the main cities of Ramadi, Fallujah and Haditha.

The dire state of access to education in Anbar is replicated in several other regions of Iraq affected by a conflict that has displaced more than three million people.

According to the latest figures from the United Nations, more than 70% of displaced children do not have access to education.

Moreover, schools have been destroyed or damaged, while others were occupied by armed groups. Even when they are vacated, they cannot be used until cleared for unexploded ordnance.

 Civilian Toll Played Down

A six-month investigation into civilian and “friendly fire” deaths from airstrikes by the US in Iraq and Syria has identified far more worrying incidents than have been acknowledged by the US-led coalition, with potentially many hundreds of noncombatants killed since the campaign against the IS began.

The London-based monitoring group Airwars said the coalition’s admission of only two to four “likely” civilian deaths over the course of many months stood in stark contrast to its own projected death toll.

The compilation and evaluation of dozens of reports from Iraq and Syria suggest more than 1,000 civilians may have already perished under coalition bombs.

Airwars director Chris Woods said the wide discrepancy in figures indicated a worrying lack of urgency on the part of the US-led coalition in regard to civilian casualties, and risked handing the IS a powerful propaganda tool.

  UK Extends Air Campaign in Iraq

The UK will extend its air campaign in Iraq against IS positions by a year, British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said on Tuesday, stressing that it would use aging Tornado fighter jets to conduct strikes until at least early 2017.

Britain had previously said the Tornados would stay operational until March 2016, a year later than originally intended, and would then be finally taken out of service.

The US-led coalition has conducted dozens of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria in recent days.

Britain is part of the US-led coalition, but only has parliament’s backing to carry out strikes in Iraq and not Syria.