Fighting for Mosul

Ivor Prickett

As the battle for Mosul, Iraq's second city, enters its fifth month, only the part on the eastern bank of the Tigris has so far been retaken from Islamic State at great cost. The western part, home to some 750,000 residents, confronts the army with painful and daunting challenges.~~After three months of intense fighting Iraqi forces have retaken the eastern side of Mosul from Islamic State (IS). The Tigris river, which runs through the middle, is now within plain sight from the balconies of the once luxurious Nineveh International hotel. Snipers from Iraq's Special Operations Forces (ISOF) occupy the ravaged former five-star hotel facing West where they can observe and target their enemy less than 1,500 metres away. For months, journalists and soldiers had been talking of setting their eyes on the river as some sort of mythical landmark. Yet from this very landmark, the scale of the task ahead become all the more apparent. Western Mosul, home to some 750,000 people, is going to test government forces to the very limit. Ivor was embedded with an ISOF unit which followed several tanks and armoured bulldozers advancing toward the Al Andalus district.

As soon as the detachment hit a large boulevard it came under fire from IS snipers hiding in surrounding buildings. Behind the advance troops, a column of humvees followed slowly, with gunners firing down the side streets of the heavily built up area. Though facing less resistance than earlier in the battle, the men were on high alert for suicide car bombers, a favoured IS tactic. ~~Slowly people started to emerge from their homes to greet their liberators. Pale and haggard from days of waiting indoors, men who approached the soldiers were told to lift their tops at gunpoint to show that they weren't strapped with explosives. Small groups of commandos peeled off to search houses for lurking fighters, always remaining vigilant of booby traps. A bearded IS fighter lay in the driveway of a substantial house on a leafy street, his dusty body jarring with the domestic surrounding. A family appeared from the house next door, the young son of about 10 hardly giving the macabre scene a second glance.~~By midday the street fighting had subsided somewhat but the relative calm was shattered with news of car bombers. Two were taken out by air strikes but a ~~third was heading toward ISOF positions. Local people had pushed cars into the road to slow them down and this gave Ivor, Col. Saad and other members of the ISOF group time to duck into a yard. The suicide bomber ploughed through two cars before detonating, taking out two humvees and injuring four soldiers.~The explosion shook everything in its vicinity and showered glass on the group. The colonel's men had formed a human shield around him and immediately checked that he was uninjured, a stolid sign of loyalty enhanced by his presence at the frontline.~~The bomb left a large crater in the road and sent pieces of the vehicle flying to the first floor of a nearby house. Moments later a family emerged from a house that had been torn apart by the explosion. They were ushered down the road by soldiers, lucky to have survived a blast on their doorstep.~~Though the tide of people fleeing Mosul has slowed there are thousands who are moving from district to district within the city, dodging the fighting as the frontline shifts. And while the wholesale exodus predicted by aid organisations hasn't come about, conditions inside the besieged city are dire. Few aid~~organisations are able to operate so close to the frontline, leaving large parts of the city without medical care and basic water and electricity supply.~~For those trapped in western Mosul, escape attempts can mean summary execution . The five bridges across the Tigris have been blown up by airstrikes, cutting off vital escape routes. ~~The end of the battle will, when it comes, will be followed by the vast task of rebuilding and demining must begin. Civilians are dying on a daily basis from unexploded ordinance and booby traps left by the retreating islamists. Many expect the desperate remaining IS fighters to become ever more ruthless as the battle is taken to western Mosul and into densely populated areas.~~Part of IS's success in predominantly Sunni parts of Iraq was based on fanning the distaste for the Shia dominated army that many experienced as something akin to an occupying force. Even when the guns fall silent it will take significantly longer to heal the divisions between the religious communities that make up this war-torn country.~~~

 

Display

Ivor-Prickett

Select a subject

  • Group 2 (0)
    • Stories (890)

      Iraq

      Iraqi Special Operations Forces soldiers survey the...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00229312

      Iraq

      Iraqi families flee the Al Thaqafa neighbourhood...

      © Ivor Prickett/UNHCR

      00229313

      Iraq

      Iraqi Special Operations Forces soldiers try to shoot...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00229027

      Iraq

      The body of an Islamic State (ISIS) militant lies in...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00229005

      Iraq

      An Iraqi Special Operations Forces soldier moves into...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00229006

      Iraq

      A family climbs out of their destroyed home to flee...

      © Ivor Prickett/UNHCR

      00228863

      Iraq

      Two men lift a young Iraqi man into the back of an...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00228864

      Iraq

      Iraqi Special Operations Forces soldiers clear a huge...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00228865

      Iraq

      An Iraqi Special Operations Forces soldier looks out...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00228866

      Iraq

      An Iraqi Special Operations Forces soldier drives a...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00228867

      Iraq

      Iraqi Special Operations Forces soldiers clear a huge...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00228868

      Iraq

      People flee the recently liberated neighbourhood of...

      © Ivor Prickett/UNHCR

      00228869

      Iraq

      A body which was recovered from the ruins of a house...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00228870

      Iraq

      An injured man is transferred to an ambulance at a...

      © Ivor Prickett/UNHCR

      00228871

      Iraq

      An Iraqi Special Operations Forces soldier offers a...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00228872

      Iraq

      A family in the Al Qadisiyah neighbourhood of East...

      © Ivor Prickett/UNHCR

      00228835

      Iraq

      An Iraqi Special Operations Forces soldier searches a...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00228836

      Iraq

      A group of locals in the recently liberated Al...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00229249

      Iraq

      An Iraqi Special Operations Forces soldier takes up...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00229250

      Iraq

      Zaid Khalid Mohammed, 16, is buried beside his father...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00229251

      Iraq

      An Iraqi Special Operations Forces soldier stands...

      © Ivor Prickett

      00229314

      of
      Panos Pictures  1 Honduras Street  London  EC1Y 0TH  UK |  telephone: +44 20 7253 1424 |  email: [email protected]     
      POWERED BY INFRADOX