MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - As Iraqi government forces advanced towards his eastern Mosul neighborhood in November, a group of Islamic State militants stormed Abu Rami's home, put a gun to his head and told him and his family to get out immediately.
The militants, including a local man whose name he knew, brought with them a bearded comrade clutching a sniper rifle whom Abu Rami suspects was Russian or Chechen. The foreigner took up position in a rooftop chicken coop.
When Abu Rami returned 11 days later, the fighting had ended and the militants had slipped away, but his two-storey house was destroyed by an air strike. His family is now distributed among relatives and friends across the city.
"Destruction occurs in a few moments, but rebuilding takes time," he said outside the rubble of his home where men huddled around a well to collect water because pipes have been damaged.
The Mosul campaign, involving a 100,000-strong alliance of Iraqi government troops and militarized police, Kurdish security forces and mainly Shi'ite Muslim militiamen, is the most complex battle in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
With nearly all of eastern Mosul under government control three months into the U.S.-backed offensive, most residents have stayed in the city, complicating the task of the military which must fight among civilians in built-up areas against an enemy that has targeted non-combatants and hidden among them.
Residents told Reuters during a visit to the Muharibeen district on Friday how the battle played out for them, describing scenes likely repeated in one form or another across the city.
The militants hung curtains across roadways to try to obscure the view of Iraqi army marksmen as they dashed from houses to pray in a tan-colored mosque where they also posted a sniper in the minaret, Abu Rami said.
They kept a car packed with explosives parked opposite his house for more than a week. When they deployed it to a main street, an army tank shelled it, destroying an adjacent building.Read More...
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