July 11, 2017 / 6:04 PM / a year ago

A picture and its story - Capturing the nine-month battle for Mosul

MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - A screaming father running down a rubble-strewn street in Mosul carrying his distressed daughter was one of the most powerful Reuters images taken during the Iraqi-led assault to remove Islamic State from its stronghold.

A man cries as he carries his daughter while walking from an Islamic State-controlled part of Mosul towards Iraqi special forces soldiers during a battle in Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Goran Tomasevic: "Both screaming in terror, the father and the young daughter he cradled in his arm fled through the rubble-strewn streets of Wadi Hajar, transformed in a flash into a battleground between Islamic State fighters and Iraqi special forces. They and their neighbours - some wearing rubber sandals, some barefoot - were running from an IS counter-attack in this part of Mosul, dodging gunfire as the militants closed in. When they reached the special forces lines, males were ordered to lift their shirts to prove they weren't suicide bombers. The father was so beside himself, so panicked. It was obvious because he had a short shirt on and was carrying a child that he wasnÕt Islamic State. I believe they will both be taken to a refugee camp." REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File photo

The nine-month offensive to recapture the northern city began in October, with thousands killed or displaced before Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory on Monday, three years after the militants seized the city.

Reuters has re-released a selection of pictures from the offensive along with our photographers’ accounts of the events behind them.

They can be seen by clicking: reut.rs/2sMj8og

As U.S.-led coalition air strikes hit the Tahrir district of eastern Mosul in November, Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic was on the streets and captured the panic from one strike that sent civilians fleeing for safety.

People run in panic after a coalition airstrike hit Islamic State fighters positions in Tahrir neighbourhood of Mosul, Iraq, November 17, 2016. Goran Tomasevic: "I had been to the Tahrir district of eastern Mosul several times while covering the campaign by Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led air strikes to retake the city from Islamic State militants. Covering battles is tough and in this case, it was difficult to get to the frontline at times, but on this day we managed. When we arrived it seemed calm and quiet. Soon after a car blew up in a suicide bombing in an Islamic State counter-attack to the forces' push into Mosul. There were casualties, children screaming, and several nearby houses were destroyed. There were also clashes. I have covered many conflicts in my career, but what has struck me in Mosul is the number of car bombings. The fighting comes in waves and when things eventually quietened down, I saw a group of civilians making the most of a break in gunfire to come out onto the streets. They were both young and elderly, and felt safe enough to leave their homes with few belongings, walking carefully but calmly towards where I was standing capturing the scenes around me. Suddenly an air strike targeted Islamic State positions a few hundred metres away behind them. It was close and total panic ensued. People were screaming, ducking and running away as the plumes of smoke rose nearby. They quickly ran for whatever shelter they could find. I heard the plane just before the airstrike, and from experience knew I had little time. These things happen fast and you have to act quickly. First you have to make sure you are safe, then stay focused so you can get the shot. You get your lens ready and stay calm. It was one airstrike and residents waited it out before finding other shelter. I eventually moved to another location to continue covering the fighting." REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File photo

“It was close and total panic ensued. People were screaming, ducking and running away,” he said.

The air strikes aided the 100,000-strong alliance of Iraqi government units, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shi’ite militias who made ground against the militants, some of whom were manhandled when found hiding among civilians.

Slideshow (10 Images)

Reuters photographer Alaa Al-Marjani captured the moment one suspect was “tossed into the bed of the pickup truck” in February during patrols in the west of the city.

Other militants were shot on site. Tomasevic photographed over the shoulder of one Iraqi special forces soldier as he fired on an Islamic State suicide bomber in March.

“I took the picture seconds later standing just behind the shooter in silhouette, with the suicide bomber visible through a shell hole in the house wall, dead on the ground in a spreading pool of blood,” he said.

“It was pretty heavy stuff, extremely close-range war fighting.”

The pain of the thousands of displaced families was captured by Zohra Bensemra, who photographed a fatigued 90-year-old woman in western Mosul, barely able to stand as she made her way to the Iraqi security forces area.

“I felt bad because I could not do anything else for her apart from photographing her to show the world what physical and mental state the people who flee Mosul are in, Bensemra said.

Other images showcase the relief and celebration among Iraqis, with Suhaib Salem photographing a smiling man having his beard shaved in March outside Hamam al-Alil camp after being forced to grow it long by Islamic State.

Writing by Patrick Johnston in LONDON; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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