Long road to recovery: Rebuilding homes destroyed by car bomb one bucket at a time
November 30, 2009
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq - A little more than five months have passed since a devastating car bomb attack in the city of Taza in Kirkuk province, Iraq, killed approximately 90 residents and wounded more than 200, and left hundreds without homes.
Initial assistance from international organizations like the United Nations, Government of Turkey, Kirkuk Provincial Reconstruction Team, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based at Forward Operating Base Warrior in Kirkuk province, provided humanitarian relief in the form of blankets, tents, food, and some financial assistance. However, the road to reconstruction has taken longer than expected.
Colonel Jangees, Taza's police chief, and Mayor Talib of Taza, took time during a meeting with Soldiers from the 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2BCT, to discuss current reconstruction efforts and security, Nov. 24.
Since the attack, Col. Jangees has implemented additional security measures to prevent the same attack from happening again.
"We increased the number of checkpoints on the roads leading into the city," Col. Jangees said. "We now have nine separate checkpoints which are manned 24 hours a day."
Colonel Jangees also said additional equipment was purchased by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to detect bomb making materials.
"We now have explosives detection equipment which 'sniffs' out explosives and other chemicals, which we can use to inspect vehicles at the checkpoints," Col. Jangees said.
Mayor Talib said the recovery following the attack and removal of debris from the blast site was swift but reconstruction efforts of destroyed homes were taking longer than initially expected.
Local businesses in Taza that were affected by the attack received assistance from the 2BCT. Capt. Brennan Mullaney, from Cumberland, Md., and commander of Troop B, 4/9th Cav., said at least 22 micro-grants were distributed to businesses in Taza to help with reconstruction.
According to Mayor Talib, the Government of Iraq is still in the process of distributing financial aid to the victims. Without it, he said, many of the families will not be able to rebuild their homes any time soon.
However, Mayor Talib said support for Taza had been great, with essential services up and running, U.N. donations, and aid from Kirkuk's governor.
"Every family has returned since the attack. I will continue to work with the [GoI] to make sure the financial aid makes it to the right people," Mayor Talib said.
At the blast site, hardly a trace of debris from the explosion remains, and one might even think the barren landscape is a city park if not for the few homes beginning to sprout up again.
Ali Kamebr Gidan, an officer with the 19th Iraqi Army Brigade, who lost his home during the attack, has begun rebuilding his home and was using his week of vacation to assist his neighbor to rebuild his. Using shovels and a bucket, Ali helped pour cement to lay down the foundation and mixed mortar to build the new walls of the house.
"It is community and friendships which have made it possible to recover," Ali said.
Ali said he was fortunate because his family was not home at the time of the attack like so many others, and he had his own money to begin rebuilding his home.
"Someday, this area will be as it used to be," Ali said.