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It could take more than a decade to clear Mosul of explosives, U.S. officials say
Smoke plumes billow in the Old City of Mosul during the offensive by the Iraqi force to retake the city from Islamic State fighters, on Monday. (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

After nine months of vicious street-to-street fighting to drive the Islamic State out of Mosul, it could take many years more to fully remove explosives and other munitions from one of Iraq’s most populous cities, U.S. State Department officials said.

“When I look around the world in some ways there’s nothing like Mosul that we’ve encountered.” said Stanley Brown, the director of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. “The level of contamination though is not one of those where we’re talking weeks and months, we’re talking years and maybe decades.”

Over three years of occupation, the Islamic State mined and booby-trapped large sections of Mosul. Heavy combat has also littered the city with unexploded ordnance such as artillery shells and hand grenades. In the western reaches of the city, where the fighting was especially fierce, massive debris fields will need to be removed to clear the ground beneath.

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Inside the battle for Mosul

The fight to reclaim the city of Mosul from the Islamic State is one of the biggest yet against the militant group.

More than a million civilians are thought to be trapped in the city, and the already difficult battle is complicated by the uneasy mix of forces that have formed a coalition to rid the city of extremists.