Photos: The labyrinthine battles against ISIS in Iraq and Syria

Updated On Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

A ragtag coalition of Iraqi army soldiers, Kurdish Peshmerga and the US backed coalition tacked ISIS in its Syrian and Iraqi strongholds all through 2017, gaining ground and liberating its strongholds of Raqqa and Mosul after months of violent to and fro offensives. A look in pictures.

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A man screams in terror cradling his daughter to safety, dodging fire in an ISIS-controlled part of Mosul towards Iraqi Special Forces soldiers, in March 2017. An awkward coalition of the army, Shi’ite Muslim paramilitaries and Kurdish Peshmerga driven by political and sectarian differences, chased an elusive, fanatical enemy, mustering rare unity to end a reign of terror in Iraq’s second city Mosul, seat of the ultra-hardline insurgents’ “caliphate”. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

A man screams in terror cradling his daughter to safety, dodging fire in an ISIS-controlled part of Mosul towards Iraqi Special Forces soldiers, in March 2017. An awkward coalition of the army, Shi’ite Muslim paramilitaries and Kurdish Peshmerga driven by political and sectarian differences, chased an elusive, fanatical enemy, mustering rare unity to end a reign of terror in Iraq’s second city Mosul, seat of the ultra-hardline insurgents’ “caliphate”. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

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Members of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) forces look at the positions of Islamic State militants during clashes in western Mosul, in May 2017. The people who once lived there departed quickly, leaving clothes and toys scattered across the floor. The next inhabitants left hollow shell casings. (Danish Siddiqui / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

Members of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) forces look at the positions of Islamic State militants during clashes in western Mosul, in May 2017. The people who once lived there departed quickly, leaving clothes and toys scattered across the floor. The next inhabitants left hollow shell casings. (Danish Siddiqui / REUTERS)

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A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces calls his comrades during the battle with Islamic State fighters in Raqqa, Syria on August 14, 2017. Baghdad’s victory in July 2017 after nine months of fighting was the coup de grace for the caliphate and came three years after a jihadist juggernaut seized one third of Iraq. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces calls his comrades during the battle with Islamic State fighters in Raqqa, Syria on August 14, 2017. Baghdad’s victory in July 2017 after nine months of fighting was the coup de grace for the caliphate and came three years after a jihadist juggernaut seized one third of Iraq. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

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A woman gestures approaching Iraqi Special Forces during a battle in Mosul in March 2017. Even with supportive US air strikes, Baghdad’s triumph came at a devastating cost for the once-vibrant, multicultural cities in northern Iraq and surrounding regions. When ISIS first arrived in Mosul in June 2014, sweeping aside crumbling Iraqi army units, many residents welcomed them disgruntled by then-Shi’ite PM Nuri al-Maliki’s widespread sectarian abuses. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

A woman gestures approaching Iraqi Special Forces during a battle in Mosul in March 2017. Even with supportive US air strikes, Baghdad’s triumph came at a devastating cost for the once-vibrant, multicultural cities in northern Iraq and surrounding regions. When ISIS first arrived in Mosul in June 2014, sweeping aside crumbling Iraqi army units, many residents welcomed them disgruntled by then-Shi’ite PM Nuri al-Maliki’s widespread sectarian abuses. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

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Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) fire at an ISIS drone in Raqqa, Syria in June 2017. Maliki’s successor, Haider al-Abadi, had long been seen as an ineffective leader but a US-backed campaign against IS offered him a chance to emerge as a steely statesman capable of taking on a group that had terrorised cities with beheadings in public squares while staging deadly attacks in the West. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) fire at an ISIS drone in Raqqa, Syria in June 2017. Maliki’s successor, Haider al-Abadi, had long been seen as an ineffective leader but a US-backed campaign against IS offered him a chance to emerge as a steely statesman capable of taking on a group that had terrorised cities with beheadings in public squares while staging deadly attacks in the West. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

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A civilian prays after being rescued by Syrian Democratic Forces from the stadium after Raqqa was liberated from the Islamic in October 2017. ISIS presented themselves as saviours. But as jihadists brandishing AK-47 rifles began imposing an Islamist doctrine even more brutal and medieval than al Qaeda, their popularity soon faded. (Erik De Castro / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

A civilian prays after being rescued by Syrian Democratic Forces from the stadium after Raqqa was liberated from the Islamic in October 2017. ISIS presented themselves as saviours. But as jihadists brandishing AK-47 rifles began imposing an Islamist doctrine even more brutal and medieval than al Qaeda, their popularity soon faded. (Erik De Castro / REUTERS)

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Internally displaced Syrian children who fled Raqqa stand near their tent in Ras al-Ain province, Syria. Just smoking a cigarette, an act IS saw as anti-Islamic, earned one dozens of lashes. Children were used as informers. Women in minority communities were turned into sex slaves. (Rodi Said / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

Internally displaced Syrian children who fled Raqqa stand near their tent in Ras al-Ain province, Syria. Just smoking a cigarette, an act IS saw as anti-Islamic, earned one dozens of lashes. Children were used as informers. Women in minority communities were turned into sex slaves. (Rodi Said / REUTERS)

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An altar of a damaged church is seen in the town of Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, in April 2017. Once home to about 50,000 mostly Iraqi Christians, it stood as ghost town. Iraqi forces kicked out ISIS fighters but citizens were still afraid to go back to their homes. The town once had 12 churches with one more than 1000 years old. Now all were destroyed or badly ruined. (Marko Djurica / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

An altar of a damaged church is seen in the town of Qaraqosh, south of Mosul, in April 2017. Once home to about 50,000 mostly Iraqi Christians, it stood as ghost town. Iraqi forces kicked out ISIS fighters but citizens were still afraid to go back to their homes. The town once had 12 churches with one more than 1000 years old. Now all were destroyed or badly ruined. (Marko Djurica / REUTERS)

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90-year-old Khatla Ali Abdallah after she fled; her fearful eyes red with fatigue so severe she could not stand or even sit properly. Even as an alliance of convenience was struck, offensives posed formidable physical obstacles. Key districts consisted of ancient streets and alleyways inaccessible to armoured vehicles and were so densely populated air strikes risked heavy civilian casualties making street by street, house by house, fighting unavoidable. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

90-year-old Khatla Ali Abdallah after she fled; her fearful eyes red with fatigue so severe she could not stand or even sit properly. Even as an alliance of convenience was struck, offensives posed formidable physical obstacles. Key districts consisted of ancient streets and alleyways inaccessible to armoured vehicles and were so densely populated air strikes risked heavy civilian casualties making street by street, house by house, fighting unavoidable. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

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Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) run to cover in Raqqa, Syria. In one village, a single IS sniper hunkered down in a house held up hundreds of Kurdish fighters, US special forces and 40 vehicles. Eventually, his rifle went silent after three air strikes on the house. IS fighters were experts at suicide bombings and assembling homemade bombs. Many houses were booby-trapped. Iraqi military commanders had to factor these perils into their warplans. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) run to cover in Raqqa, Syria. In one village, a single IS sniper hunkered down in a house held up hundreds of Kurdish fighters, US special forces and 40 vehicles. Eventually, his rifle went silent after three air strikes on the house. IS fighters were experts at suicide bombings and assembling homemade bombs. Many houses were booby-trapped. Iraqi military commanders had to factor these perils into their warplans. (Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS)

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Iraqi Federal Police and a man carry a civilian, injured while opening a booby-trapped shop in Tayaran district. After months of gruelling fighting, Iraqi forces finally attained the outskirts of Mosul, but any celebrations were premature. Booby traps and car bombs littered dusty roads. A Mosul resident explained that his child no longer flinched at explosions because many, including the young, had grown numb to the daily bloodshed. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

Iraqi Federal Police and a man carry a civilian, injured while opening a booby-trapped shop in Tayaran district. After months of gruelling fighting, Iraqi forces finally attained the outskirts of Mosul, but any celebrations were premature. Booby traps and car bombs littered dusty roads. A Mosul resident explained that his child no longer flinched at explosions because many, including the young, had grown numb to the daily bloodshed. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

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Iraqi rapid response members fire a missile against Islamic State militants during a battle with the militants in Mosul. As much of east and west Mosul was pulverised by coalition air strikes, the city was reduced to row after row of collapsed or gutted housing. In the end, IS suffered its most decisive defeat and watched their self-proclaimed caliphate evaporate in Iraq, then in Syria as Kurdish-led forces retook Raqqa --IS’s urban stronghold there. (Thaier Al-Sudani / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

Iraqi rapid response members fire a missile against Islamic State militants during a battle with the militants in Mosul. As much of east and west Mosul was pulverised by coalition air strikes, the city was reduced to row after row of collapsed or gutted housing. In the end, IS suffered its most decisive defeat and watched their self-proclaimed caliphate evaporate in Iraq, then in Syria as Kurdish-led forces retook Raqqa --IS’s urban stronghold there. (Thaier Al-Sudani / REUTERS)

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An Iraqi Federal Policeman rests in the Old City of Mosul. In the weeks before Raqqa’s fall in October, SDF fighters faced off against hardened militants and suffered losses. But that did not curb their enthusiasm and some said they would eventually join Kurdish PKK militants in Turkey and help advance their 33-year-old insurgency there. (Ahmed Jadallah / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

An Iraqi Federal Policeman rests in the Old City of Mosul. In the weeks before Raqqa’s fall in October, SDF fighters faced off against hardened militants and suffered losses. But that did not curb their enthusiasm and some said they would eventually join Kurdish PKK militants in Turkey and help advance their 33-year-old insurgency there. (Ahmed Jadallah / REUTERS)

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A woman injured in a mortar attack is treated by medics as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants, in western Mosul. The victors in Iraq and Syria now face new challenges as they rebuild cities shattered by the showdowns. Kurdish groups who led the fight against ISIS in its former bastions now navigate a complex peace to avoid ethnic tension with Arab majorities. Meanwhile, life for the liberated residents remains fraught with risk. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Updated on Dec 06, 2017 11:15 AM IST

A woman injured in a mortar attack is treated by medics as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants, in western Mosul. The victors in Iraq and Syria now face new challenges as they rebuild cities shattered by the showdowns. Kurdish groups who led the fight against ISIS in its former bastions now navigate a complex peace to avoid ethnic tension with Arab majorities. Meanwhile, life for the liberated residents remains fraught with risk. (Zohra Bensemra / REUTERS)

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