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Cost of reconstruction in Najaf calculated

A week after fighting in the southern Iraqi holy city of Najaf came to an end, officials in the governorate have started to calculate the cost of the destruction. Fighting between US troops and members of the Mehdi army, loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, raged in the city for three weeks before peace was brokered. The Ministry of Health coordinator in Najaf has said that the total number killed was 570 with 785 injured. These statistics were taken from local hospitals and didn't include bodies buried during the fighting. "We have been receiving aid from many countries, including help from some NGOs. Kuwait has been helping and Iran has offered us their help too. We are accepting and asking for all world support and help for the reconstruction of Najaf," Adnan al-Zurfy, from the governorate of Najaf, told IRIN. A total of 72 shops, 50 hotels, 90 homes, three schools and dozens of cars were destroyed in the fighting, according to officials in the city. There has also been massive destruction of the historic old part of the city, some of it impossible to repair, they say. Some government offices have also suffered extensive damage, including to hospitals and power and water supplies. Some 70 percent of the police stations were destroyed during the conflict, the Najaf official said. Al-Zurfy added that experts from the Defence Ministry had been working hard to clear the area of weapons and unexploded ordnance (UXOs), including the cemetery, which was used as a battle ground. He said that security in Najaf at present should be used as a stepping stone: "It gives us some optimism for the future and expectations that finally this city can get its safety and peace, especially because the people of Najaf have started to realise that what happened was wrong." "I think that we have to help the government at this time and not make things more difficult than they are now," Ali Albu-Hadary, sheikh of one of the biggest tribes in Najaf, told IRIN. Officials have closed the Kuffa and Imam Ali mosques to remove military debris, including UXOs and ammunition supplies. A curfew has been imposed to facilitate the work, that involves 500 people, to clean up the city and ensure security. It is due to end on 10 September. The interim prime minister's office in Baghdad has said that the Ministry of Reconstruction was going to spend US $55 million on government buildings in Najaf. The Ministry of Municipalities will spend nearly $650 million on water and sanitation, especially in the old part of the city, where 90 percent of the system had been destroyed. In addition, the Ministry of Telecommunication has signed a contract with a foreign company to build a new communications centre in Najaf and supply equipment. "All the families that had their homes totally destroyed or were somehow affected by the fighting are going to be compensated. The government is going to give them materials and money for the rebuilding," Al-Zurfy added. Earlier in the week there was a meeting between government officials and 30 hotel owners in order to find a way to restart reconstruction of their properties too. The city is visited by thousands of pilgrims monthly and catering for them is central to the local economy. Al-Zurfy added that future projects for the holy city included attracting foreign investment to help generate more work for the Iraqi people. He also complained that the local market had been damaged and would be rebuilt in a different area, not so close to the holy Imam Ali shrine. Power supplies had improved in the city and are now reportedly back to some sort of normality in Najaf, although they are still not reliable in the city's Kuffa area. However, some districts are taking much longer to put right, due to badly damaged cables, particularly in the Rasul, Sadak and Zeinab areas of the old city. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Baghdad said that it had sent trucks carrying water, food and other medical supplies to the city four days ago and that another convoy would probably leave in a few days time. "Water has been the biggest problem in all areas of Iraq. We are trying to provide them with at least clean water to prevent health problems," Ahmed Rawi, an ICRC spokesman, told IRIN in Baghdad.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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