Chaos, carnage, and courage: First 6 months of Battle of Mosul in 10 visceral videos
Drone footage of Iraqi Army readying for the assault on the city
The months leading up to the attack in October 2016 were filled with political maneuvering to ensure that the right composition of forces would participate in the battle, all the while giving Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) advance warning, so they could properly prepare a defense. But these shots leading up to the battle showed armed vehicles massing outside the city, giving the impression that this would be a failsafe encounter against a vastly overwhelmed force.
ISIS-shot video of fighters moving and fighting in the streets
Islamic State militants, despite seemingly being outnumbered and outgunned, offered fierce resistance to the advancing Iraqi forces, having had ample time to get ready and accept death as inevitable. This unverified footage released by IS seems to show its fighters defending what’s left of their territory on the streets of Mosul.
Suicide bomber in armored vehicle attacks Iraqi Army
As expected, Islamic State had a wide range of military options, founded upon their disregard for human life – both for their own fighters and the civilians they use as human shields. This video captures a typical vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attack by a suicide bomber, an Al-Qaeda terrorist tactic that has gained popularity on the battlefield.
Residents flee Mosul with nothing but their clothes
Right from the start, the hundreds of thousands of civilians held hostage by a few thousand Islamists have been the biggest victims. In the early stages, many risked being shot as they fled the city, but as coalition airstrikes intensified, the danger more and more came from above.
Funerals following coalition air strikes
Compared to Aleppo, limited attention had been paid by most international observers to ‘collateral damage,’ until a series of airstrikes in March reportedly resulted in the death of likely more than 200 civilians.
4-year-old survivor of bombing attack becomes symbol (GRAPHIC)
It may seem arbitrary to pick out a single victim of a months-long battle, but 4-year-old Hawraa became a symbol of Mosul when she survived a coalition air strike that killed her mother and two other relatives on March 17 as they hid in their home, which had been used as a passageway by jihadists. Despite suffering shrapnel wounds that covered her body in burns, and resulted in the partial loss of her vision, Hawraa is alive and recovering.
Pandemonium breaks out during food distribution
Those who remained in the increasingly bereft shell of what was Iraq’s second biggest city suffered growing deprivations – of medication, supplies, water, and electricity. Even after areas were liberated, the delivery of much-needed supplies turned into frantic scenes, with soldiers struggling to maintain a semblance of order. Mosul residents pushed, pulled, and even climbed on top of one another in a desperate attempt to get their hands on some food. As the struggle got more and more out of hand, the workers decided to drive off, only to be pursued by the ravenous crowd.
Women throw away their burqas after fleeing Mosul
While the UN and independent aid agencies admitted that they were overwhelmed and unprepared for the flow of refugees from start of the conflict, a tent in a camp outside the city is preferable to spending the night praying shells don’t hit your home. In this video, women, forced into wearing burqas by Islamic State for three years, gleefully get rid of them.
Ruins of Mosul shot by drone
While commentators have proclaimed the demise of IS inevitable (Baghdad says the terrorists now control only six percent of the country’s territory) the ruins of Mosul are a physical reminder of the impact of what has been the cruelest three years the country has suffered since its invasion by the coalition in 2003. As this drone footage shows, rebuilding Mosul will be a titanic job, while piecing Iraq back together will require more than construction equipment amidst sectarian strife and economic hardship.