In June 2014, the world watched in shock as several thousand jihadis seized Mosul. When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the creation of the caliphate, the city of 2 million people became its capital and a symbol of the new order. Those who remained there found themselves at the mercy of a cruel regime, quickly learning that the change had nothing to do with the laws of the Qur’an – just plunder, fear and cruelty.
When the Iraqi army and police returned three years later to take back control of the city, the residents of Mosul found out reality can get even worse. Not only did they suffer from hunger and thirst, but they were also used as human shields. Those who tried to escape were met with snipers’ bullets and land mines.
After several months of pointless fighting, Mosul became a symbol once again – this time, a symbol of the fall of the Daesh caliphate.
[Warning - violent scenes inside]
An Iraqi Humvee (high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle) passes by civilians leaving the battle site.
Ruins of the western part of Mosul. Some parts of the city have been completely destroyed.
Soldiers from the Team One ERD (Emergency Response Division) attack the buildings from which Daesh terrorists carry out their firing.
A mortar unit provides support for infantry units, by firing at Daesh positions.
Iraqi soldiers check if there are any terrorists hiding in the building. The battles in Mosul were not carried out in terms of streets but for each building which had to be swept. Many of the buildings were mined with booby trap explosives.
The private property of the owners of the house in which Daesh organized a base for the duration of the battle. Signs of terrorist plundering were visible in many houses reclaimed by the Iraqi army.
A family killed by Daesh during an attempted escape from the front line to the side of the Iraqi army. Daesh has treated residents of Mosul as human shields, and regarded those who attempted to leave their positions as traitors, who were then ruthlessly murdered without any differentiation to men, women, children. It was often impossible to remove their bodies before clearing the street, due to the fire of Daesh snipers.
After seizing the block, ERD units forward for the following 200 meters to start fighting for the next block. Battles for one, two, or three blocks which were 500 meters in total, often took a few days until Daesh units were defeated.
An injured civilian found by ERD units, thanks the captain leading the attack for rescuing him. In a moment he will be transported to a medical clinic located at the second front.
A resident of Mosul, civilian, helps the ERD unit to locate Daesh resistance outposts. In fear of revenge, the man moves with his face constantly hidden.
Iraqi soldiers inspect a house which was turned into a prison during the “caliphate” period. Chains were used to hang prisoners during tortures.
An Iraqi soldier fires at a Daesh position. In a moment the unit will begin its assault on a following building.
A real sniper war took place in Mosul. The Iraqi army has brought its sniper units to the city in order to defeat the Daesh marksmen, among which the most infamous ones were foreigners who were unscrupulous in firing at civilians.
An ERD soldier safely reaches the goal after running through a sniper alley.
The Iraqi army carries out a rocket fire on the Daesh positions.
A horse scared by an explosion runs through the streets of Mosul near the Old City.
RD soldiers exchange fire with the terrorists.
Choppers and drones terrified the terrorists. At those moments when the weather did not allow for gunfire support from the air, Daesh units usually reorganized and carried out massive counter attacks.
Civilians prepare to run through the sniper alley, attempting to escape the frontline and the areas occupied by Daesh.
Whenever it was possible, humvee drivers from the Iraqi army headed out, following line units, taking the civilians found on their way and transporting them through the battlefields to the freed areas. Despite the extraordinary dangers, they took the risk to transport these people safely, providing them protection from the Daesh bullets.
Iraqi soldiers load ammunition belts, preparing to assault a following building.
Due to snipers, choppers, and drones, Deash avoided to move on an open terrain and instead created openings in the walls of neighboring buildings forming pathways inside buildings. Because of Daesh snipers, the Iraqi army also started to take advantage of pathways created by terrorists, or created their own if needed.
Many of the civilians who have reached the Iraqi army line faced a new tragedy as they were unable to locate their close ones, which were separated from them during the attempt to escape through the front line.
A soldier of the Federal Police unit observes the Daesh defense line on the other side of the street. At night these units replaced the ERD ones which backed to get some rest after an entire day of assaults. Daesh often counter attacked at night, taking advantage of the lack of air support. At dawn ERD units returned to the front line to once again fight for the same buildings they have taken over the day before.
It was clear, already at an early stage of the battle, that it is one lost for Daesh. When Mosul has been surrounded and closed by a cordon, it became clear for members of Daesh that there was no way to escape. Some started to fight, trying to takes as many down with them as possible. However, as the Iraqi army advanced, the number of deserters grew. Due to the siege, the only way to escape was to change into a civilian and become a part of the crowd of refugees.
This man who has reached the line of the Iraqi army has been recognized by women as a member of Daesh. Captured by Iraqi soldiers, he will be taken in for interrogation.
Remains of a suicide bomber who has crossed the frontline, but was recognized and surrounded by Iraqi soldiers. He has triggered the explosives strapped to his belt.
Iraqi soldiers praying by the front line.
A desperate girl tries to find her parents after crossing the front to the side of the Iraqi army line in a military humvee.
Members of the Shiite Al-Hashd Al-Sha'abi militia distribute food among the residents of Mosul.
A resident of Mosul, who has successfully reached the side of the Iraqi army, on her way to the refugee camp at Hammam al-Alil. More than half a million people escaped the city during the battle of Mosul.
An ERD soldier sleeping during a temporary pause in the battles.