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Sunni fighters who oppose the Islamic State take up formation along the front line near the ISIS-controlled village of Haj Ali, south of Mosul. Image by Moises Saman/Magnum Photos. Iraq, 2015.

In Nineveh, a city in Iraq that dates to Biblical times, there is a training camp where former security forces from Mosul—mainly police—have been preparing to participate in the anticipated operation to "liberate" it. They call themselves the Mosul Liberation Force. They are Sunni Arabs, native to the city, who dropped their weapons and fled when the Islamic State, or ISIS, stormed Mosul back in June. Many of them left family behind, from whom they have not heard since ISIS cut Mosul's internet and cell service in December.

The battle to dislodge IS from Mosul and other cities and towns in Iraq will likely be a bloody one, and it will take place in urban settings densely populated by civilians. An even greater concern is what will happen afterwards. How will the Kurds or the Shiite security forces and militias avoid engendering yet another Sunni insurgency? No doubt, the Mosul Liberation Force will need to play a significant role in any long-term solution.

More intimately, what will these men find when they return to the city they abandoned? Will their families still be there? What will their loved ones have endured during their absence? Will they have the strength to forgo reprisals? Journalist Luke Mogelson and photographer Moises Saman travel to the frontlines to find out.



war and conflict reporting


War and Conflict

War and Conflict