In this July 4, 2017 photo, fleeing Iraqi civilians walk past the heavily damaged al-Nuri mosque during fights between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq. Image Credit: AP

Mosul: Mosul is liberated. After three years of reign of terror by the extremist group Daesh, guns have fallen silent in the city. More than a million residents, who fled the ancient city since the Iraqi security forces began an offensive in October, have heaved a collective sigh of relief.

As calm returned thousands of residents began returning. But the unprecedented destruction in the country’s second city and the unstable security situation will delay the return home of hundreds of thousands of people who fled. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) more than 825,000 people are yet to return.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has warned that many of the displaced will remain so for months.

There is not a single structure in the city that is left unscathed by the upheaval. Most of the city areas have no water or power supplies. Schools and hospitals have been laid waste, and there is hardly any food.

Iraqi authorities says the Daesh occupation that left a trail of human misery and devastation could cost $100 billion (Dh3.67 billion) to rebuild.

Planning Ministry spokesman Abdul Zahra Al Hindawi said last week that power and water supplies would be restored in the first phase of a 10-year programme to rebuild Mosul. But in a sign of the immense challenges ahead, he estimated that reconstructing all areas of Iraq that fell to Daesh would cost at least $50 billion, and maybe double that amount.

“The government is intensifying efforts to restore life in the destroyed areas,” Mudher Saleh, economic adviser to Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi, said.

Nofal Al Hamad, the governor of Nineveh province, whose capital is Mosul, said on Sunday that destruction in the city’s west, where the military campaign entered its final phase in mid-June, is 30 times greater than in the east, liberated in January, according to a report by the Rudaw news agency.

The economic challenges facing Al Abadi’s government are massive. Iraq’s non-oil sector, which employs the majority of the workforce, shrank in each of the years following Daesh’s takeover of major cities — with contraction reaching 10.3 per cent in 2016, according to the International Monetary Fund. Iraq reached a $5.4 billion loan agreement with the IMF in May last year to help Opec’s second-biggest producer repair public finances damaged by the plunge in oil prices and war with Daesh. The government has repeatedly said it should be exempt from Opec’s production cuts as it rebuilds its war-torn economy.

Nabeel Khoury, a former US State Department official, said last week the military plan to defeat Daesh had been carefully crafted to ensure everyone stuck to their role, and it largely went well. “Now, a comprehensive plan is needed for the aftermath,” especially an economic one “to prevent radicalisation and to show concern for the people and the city,” Khoury had said.