The Washington Post reports: Iraq renamed this town on the banks of the Euphrates this week to reflect the triumph of its security forces here against Islamic State militants, who were driven out last week. Jurf al-Sakhar, or “rocky bank,” became Jurf al-Nasr, or “victory bank.”
But a visit to the Sunni settlement Tuesday laid bare the huge cost of that victory. The town is now emptied of its 80,000 residents, and building after building has been annihilated — from airstrikes, bombings and artillery fire.
After four months of battles between the Islamic State and the Iraqi army, about 10,000 pro-government Shiite militiamen were poured into the area for a final push, according to Hadi al-Amiri, who leads the Iranian-backed Badr Brigade and coordinated the operation. Defeating the militants involved clearing out all of the residents and leaving the town near-flattened, underscoring the challenge the Shiite-led government faces in areas where demographics do not work in its favor. [Continue reading…]