Fleeing residents in west Mosul
MOSUL - For two weeks, Yunis Mohammed and
17 relatives huddled terrified in the cellar
of his west Mosul home as the Islamic State
group fighters fought off advancing Iraqi
"The jihadists would knock on the door
but we wouldn't open," the 39-year-old
mechanic says, finally sitting under a tree
in the sunlight after Iraqi forces
recaptured his neighbourhood this week.
Mohammed's family, including eight
children, hid in the basement petrified
that, if they made any noise, IS jihadists
would storm in, he recounts.
"We'd give the children a sleeping potion
to stop them from talking. If they had heard
us, the jihadists would have abducted us to
protect themselves," he says.
IS fighters have used civilians as human
shields to defend themselves from
approaching Iraqi forces, who on February 19
launched a push to retake west Mosul.
When the jihadists were near, "we could
hear their voices and we could hear them
talking on their walkie-talkies," he says,
adding some IS fighters "didn't even speak
Other residents in the same district of
Al-Danadan, which is now under Iraqi
control, say they hid at home during the
fighting, surviving off their food reserves.
"We couldn't go outside because of the IS
fighters," Manhal, 28, says, without giving
his second name.
"Those who went out were taken hostage.
The fighting was very violent. Mortar rounds
fell on our roof and inside our yard," he
- 'Stuck in the middle' -
His neighbour Mohammed describes being
caught between the warring sides.
We were stuck in the middle. Open this
window, and there's the army. Open the
other, and there's IS," he says.
Fighting has devastated their residential
street, shattering the glass windows of its
houses and blowing a gaping crater into the
middle of the road.
Three entirely charred cars sit piled on
top of each other, propelled there by a
"It was like an earthquake," says Ahmed,
who was holed up inside his home with his
wife, two children and his 71-year-old
His garden wall lies in pieces, and
segments of the tarmacked main street lie
strewn all over his lawn, under a clothes
line back in use.
The 35-year-old teacher points to a
rectangular-shaped hole in a wall on his
IS fighters "made openings between the
houses" to slip from one to the next without
being seen, he says.
His aged father approaches with slow
steps, dressed in a traditional long grey
"It was dramatic. We were paralysed by
fear, especially the women. Our car burned,"
he says, his voice breaking.
A neighbour emerges in a doorway, dressed
in a thick black coat despite the spring
"They took Karam and his family," he says
gravely, running prayer beads through his
"We were surrounded by monsters."
He and his neighbours are breathing a
little easier after the years living under
But a few streets down in the same
neighbourhood, IS snipers lie in wait on
rooftops near the archeological museum
retaken by government forces.
From time to time, the crackling of
gunfire can be heard as a soldier darts
across the road to tease the jihadists.