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Dutch Middle-East correspondent Harald Doornbos is reporting from Tabaqa, Syria. The war has left that city, what remains is a ghost town. Rebuilding it seems impossible, children are searching for food from garbage piles, and NGO’s are not even present due to politics and conflict. The situation for the people seems hopeless.

Doornbos:

“I visited the former ISIS-ruled Tabaqa, near Raqqa together with (Arabic Al Aan TV-reporter) Jenan Moussa. Dead ISIS-fighters are still buried in the rubble; the stench is horrible. Dead bodies everywhere, some partly eaten by dogs. Although the city has been liberated by anti-ISIS troops, it is now a genuine ghost town. There were many foreign fighters living in Tabaqa, many from central Asia, Caucasus etc. Cyrillic scripture can be seen on many buildings, and in destroyed ISIS-houses, ISIS documents are still lying around everywhere, written in Arabic, Russian (Cyrillic), not in English.”

“Because of the air-attacks on Tabaqa, ISIS lived under ground in well-built bunkers. It’s amazing how many tunnels were built by ISIS, some are 10 meters deep and 150 meters long. Some even could fit a car. There are still booby-traps scattered in some places. In Tabaqa, we also visited the Osama Bin Laden school. Jenan commented about this that ‘although ISIS &Nusra/Zawahiri had a nasty power struggle going on, ISIS in Tabaqa ran Osama bin Laden school’.”

“Apart from the horrible war, the poverty in Syria is now grave. People don’t have anything anymore. Here in Tabaqa, I see kids scavenging what they can find from garbage pails. There are hardly any NGO’s in this Kurdish SDF-area in Syria. They are totally blocked by Turkey and by Iraqi Kurds. The borders are closed off. Nothing will enter via Turkey due to the wall, nothing via Erbil due to the closed border and nothing via the Syrian governmental zone, due to the war. It’s bizarre.”

“Now, after the war, it is not even comprehensible how a city like Tabaqa could ever be rise again, and the area used to be so beautiful.”

Previously TOC reported on Doornbos’ analysis of the potential rise of Saif-al-Islam, Muammar Khadaffi’s son, his observations on the different attitude towards extremism in Muslim countries compared to the West and his observations on the Wests’ flawed refugee policies. Last week we reported on Doornbos’ account of the horrific history of an 8-year-old Yazidi girl who was kidnapped by ISIS.