Mosul liberated

On 16. October 2016 a coalition of Iraqi and Kurdish military forces launch operation ‘We are coming, Nineveh’ - the fight to retake the Iraqi city Mosul and the surrounding area from ISIS. Nine months later Mosul is declared liberated. An AP report estimates that upwards of 11,000 civilians have been killed during the war, and according to the International Organisation for Migration more than 800,000 people have fled their home. 

Mohammad jumps out of one of the two ambulances filled with wounded children, that has just pulled up in front of the field hospital. He’s carrying his daughter Ghufran in his arms. Half an hour earlier the ten year old girl was playing with her siblings and friends in the family’s home in the northern part of Mosul, when a mortar struck the building. Ghufran’s heart stops several times, while the doctors work on her, but they manage to resurrect the little girl. They get her patched up and load her on an ambulance, that drives towards a real hospital outside Mosul. But Ghufran dies before they get there.

20 meters. So short is the distance between Muhamed Yasin and the house across the street, where a groupe of ISIS fighters have barricaded them selves in the middle of Mosul’s Old City. Muhamed is waiting ready with his M4 automatic rifle. He can hear the enemies talk, but he cant see them. Muhamed Yasin is a soldier in the I.C.T.F. also known as Golden Division. The narrow streets of Mosul often make it impossible for the Iraqis to use their armored vehicles, so the soldiers are fighting on foot from house to house.

During a break in between fighting and mortar shelling civilian men, women and children take the opportunity to escape their homes and the war zone, where they have lived under siege for weeks and months.

When ISIS retreated from Qayyarah, they set fire to 18 of the city’s oil wells. It's taken the firefighter ten months to extinguish the flames.

Ahmed Hamid Issa lies exhausted in front of the gate to the Iraqi military intelligence field headquarters. He cant walk, so two younger men have carried him the final distance. To make sure no ISIS fighters escape all men that make it out from the frontlines are questioned by the intelligence officers.

Lieutenant Colonel Mahmood Zkrie from the Kurdish forces readies his gun before heading into one of the ISIS tunnels in the city of Baashiqa 14 km from Mosul. ‘You never know, what you run into down there’, he says. ISIS dug several tunnels under the streets and houses to get from one part of the town to the other without exposing them selves to coalition fire. Mahmood Zkrie estimates, that this tunnel has taken two months to complete. It’s equipped with tv-monitors, so ISIS could monitor the coalition troops on the streets above.

‘They’re right behind the yellow car’, the soldier says while pointing down the street. 120 meters away ISIS and special forces units exchanges fire. The ISIS occupation of Mosul has almost reached it’s end. A few hours earlier Golden Division retook the Al-Nuri Mosque, where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghadadi proclaimed the caliphate. Now the Iraqi forces are fighting to retake the last occupied areas of the city.

Three year old Narin’s body is riddled with shrapnel. She’s in a hospital bed at a hospital in the outskirts of the Kurdish captial Erbil, a couple of hours drive from Mosul. The day before she was struck by an ISIS mortar. The doctors believe Narin will survive, although they can't remove a piece of grenade, that's still lodged in her brain.

‘It’s ISIS’, one of the soldiers yells, while they lead yet another group of wounded men covered in dust through the rubble of Mosul, away from the front lines.

An elderly woman is driven through the city on the back of one of Golden Division’s Humvees. The temperature is nearly 50 degrees celcius, and she’s too weak to get away from the frontline on her own. 11 days later - 10. July 2017 - the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, declares Mosul liberated, although fighting continues in the city for a couple of weeks.