Fallujah was one of the first Iraqi cities to come under the control of ISIS in January 2014. But at the beginning of July the Iraqi government announced that the Islamic State, or IS, group had been driven out of the central Iraqi city entirely.
However, the ongoing fighting and a long siege has meant that the city has suffered much damaged. Officials estimate around 20 percent of the city's structures have been destroyed, and some now say that it wasn't just caused by the fighting.
"The amount of damage and destruction in the city is more than that which was caused by the fighting," says Rajeh Barakat al-Issawi, a local politician who heads Anbar’s provincial security committee. "But that doesn't mean [ISIS is] innocent. They are experts at theft and destruction."
Al-Issawi thinks that the damage done in his town cannot be blamed on just one party. Some have suggested the additional destruction was caused by members of Iraq's volunteer Shiite militias, who have committed controversial and vengeful acts in cities in Anbar in the past, after pushing ISIS out.
Officials estimate around 20 percent of the city's structures have been destroyed, and some now say that it wasn't just caused by the fighting.
Pro-government forces certainly contributed to Fallujah's damage during the siege of the city. But ISIS also destroyed a lot of Fallujah's infrastructure, looting important facilities like Fallujah's water works.
"When we got back to the city recently, we found that the Fallujah water works had been completely destroyed," said Issa al-Issawi, the mayor of Fallujah. "When we started to assess the damage, we figured out that the pumps and operating systems had all been stolen, before the place was bombed."
"[ISIS] is also responsible for the destruction of the power station here, as well as the theft of transformers from the city's streets," al-Issawi added. "The Fallujah General Teaching Hospital and the Fallujah Maternity and Children's Hospital is also out of action because of bombing and looting."
The teaching hospital will need around $4 million to get it back into action, al-Issawi noted.
Of course, returning locals remain suspicious that the volunteer militias are partially responsible for the destruction of their city, especially when, following fighting in Diyala and Salahaddin, there were videos made showing burning and destruction that occurred after ISIS left the area.
Speaking to leaders among the various volunteer militias, made up mainly of Shiite Muslim volunteers who come from other areas of Iraq rather than Fallujah, which has a Sunni-Muslim-majority, they say they cannot rule out acts of disobedience.
"The volunteers are by no means angels, and there could be individuals, or even groups of people, who have taken part in revenge acts," agrees Karim Nouri, a spokesperson for the Shiite Muslim militias. "When we get proof of this, we will prosecute them. But at the same time we can also confirm that there have been no organized acts of destruction or vandalism planned by the volunteers."
"As yet we don't have any official statistics about the number of houses or civilian facilities that have been destroyed here," says mayor al-Issawi. "But we are looking forward to the return of the inhabitants so we can start assessing this damage too."
Written by Kamal al-Ayash for Niqash.org