The Battle of Mosul in 10 Photographs by Alex Kühni

On June 10, 2014, after only four days of clashes, militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) fully captured Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. Only after two years, in October 2016, the Iraqi Kurds, their Peshmerga fighters and several armed Shiite and Christian groups launched an operation to liberate it, called We Are Coming Nineveh. Since then the war has been taking a deadly toll on hundreds of thousands civilians caught in the crossfire. War photojournalist Alex Kühni traveled to Mosul and showed in 10 photographs how a two-million person city fights for life and freedom.
Alex Kühni Age 34

Born and lives in Bern. As a journalist, focuses on conflicts and social issues. In recent years, has worked in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Ukraine, Central Asia, China, and North Korea. Between December 2015 and January 2016, has been capturing the frontline in northern Iraq.


Black smoke of the ISIS signature weapons, the so-called VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) or suicide car bomb, rises over east Mosul. In the foreground, a parked Humvee armored car, the signature weapon of the Iraqi special forces. For the narrow streets and alleys heavy tanks are unfit to fight.


A jeep-mounted recoilless gun from Iraqi federal police units fires towards a house occupied by ISIS militants in southeastern Mosul.


A chaotic scene in front of an abandoned school building. The building serves as a casualty collection point during the fight for east Mosul’s Intisar neighborhood. Iraq counter-terror units unloading injured civilians and soldiers for emergency treatment after an ISIS mortar attack. An elderly man who died is wrapped in blankets on the hood of a car.


A member of the Iraqi counter-terrorist unit is handing food aid from the back of a truck to civilians after the liberation of east Mosul’s al-Quds neighborhood.


An Iraqi Special Forces lieutenant is chasing away a group of approaching civilians. ISIS suicide bombers are often hiding between groups of civilians to get close to Iraqi troop concentrations.


Civilians returning to a part of east Mosul’s al-Quds neighborhood which got recaptured from ISIS the previous day. They pass the bodies of two ISIS militants killed during the fighting for this street.


An Iraqi soldier inspects a detonated ISIS suicide car bomb on the roadside south of Mosul. The SUV’s front end is reinforced with carbon and steel plates. The back is loaded with pipe bombs.


A young man breaks in tears finding his dead father outside a casualty collection point. The father died moments before by severe shrapnel wounds to his torso and head after stepping on an IED (improvised explosive device) planted by ISIS militants. The family was fleeing fighting between ISIS and Iraqi special forces a few hundred meters away in the Karama neighborhood.


A group of Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers resting after recapturing the town of Bashiqa in the north-east of Mosul District. For the Kurds the fighting is over for now, since they are not allowed to take part in the battle for Mosul’s inner city. Mosul is a Sunni majority city where Kurdish forces would not be viewed as part of a liberation force.


A couple carrying their grandson out of an embattled east Mosul neighborhood. The child suffered several shrapnel wounds to both of his legs and right hand. Since the beginning of the battle in November 2016, 160,000 civilians managed to flee the fighting with 750,000 still trapped in this huge city turned into a battlefield.


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