Demining experts, US officials meet with Raqqa Civil Council

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A team of demining experts and representatives of the US State Department met with the Raqqa Civil Council on Tuesday in an information-gathering trip. 

“We want to know the citizen’s ability to get rid of explosives. This is what we will work on first,” Marvie McCloy, an explosives expert, told Arab 24. “We need to gather information from officials in Raqqa. We have limited support and we must be careful about dealing with mines, and we are here to coordinate together.”

The US delegation was reportedly headed by Alex Starr and included experts from international demining organizations. 

In their meetings, they discussed rebuilding infrastructure in liberated areas, including reopening roads and bridges, and restoring water and electricity networks, the SDF media office said in a statement following the meeting.

Council officials considered the Americans’ visit as an endorsement of their body.

“The delegation is specialized in demining the city of Raqqa and providing relief. We welcomed them as their visit to Raqqa Council is a recognition by the US State Department of Raqqa Council, which represents the people of Raqqa. And they are dependent on the efforts of the Council which will manage the affairs of Raqqa after liberation as well,” Omar Alloush, an advisor to the council, told Arab 24.

Last week, the United Nation’s Refugee Agency announced more than 190,000 people have been displaced from and within Raqqa governorate since April 1.

The UN on July 9 estimated that up to 30,000 people could remain trapped in Raqqa, noting “it is difficult to accurately estimate given lack of access.”

Even though war still rages throughout Syria, people are returning home. Nearly half a million have returned to their homes in the first half of 2017, the UNHCR said in late June. They have mainly returned to Aleppo, Hama, Homs, and Damascus. 

Some 6.3 million are still internally displaced and 5 million are refugees living in neighbouring countries. A UNHCR survey found that more than 80 percent of Syrian refugees want to go home, but few expect that will be a possibility in the near future. 

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