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Survivors Describe Grim Revelations In Aftermath Of Mosul Victory


Iraq has declared victory in pushing ISIS out of the city of Mosul. The group still has a foothold in other parts of Iraq. We'll explore what the loss of Mosul means for ISIS in a moment. First, grim discoveries are being made in Mosul. They shed light on what happened during the eight months of battle, and they underscore just how hard it will be for city residents to recover. NPR's Jane Arraf reports from Mosul. And please note that some listeners may find details in her story disturbing.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: This is a street in Mosul's industrial section. Special Forces Humvees race by. Near the blackened and burned shops, I stop to talk to a group of men trying to fix a steel shutter in the 100-degree heat.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: They include Abdul Malak Mohammad, who had a warehouse supplying flour sacks.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: The men tell me ISIS destroyed Mosul. And then Mohammad tells me he wants to show me something. We walk into one of the concrete buildings down the street. There's not much light inside.

So we're in another warehouse, and he's pointing. And I know it's going to be awful because he's covering his nose.

ABDUL MALAK MOHAMMAD: (Foreign language spoken).

ARRAF: There are the bodies of three young men sprawled against the wall here on the gravel. Two of them are lying face-down. But there is one who is on his back. And you can see that he had his hands tied behind his back.

Mohammad says he wasn't here when they were killed, but he knows they were ISIS. He says Iraqi soldiers shot them and threw their bodies here. He says they deserved to die. It's hard to tell if they were killed here, but it's clear what the warehouse was used for.

There have been holes punched through the walls big enough to drive a truck through. That's what they did, apparently, because this was a car bomb factory. You can see piles of car parts. And then in another room, there are chunks of steel that they would use to make the suicide car bombs more effective and resistant to gunfire.

In a nearby building, there are ambulance parts that were dismantled to make the vehicle suicide bombs. A steel truck bed lying on its side has sort of a shopping list written in chalk - bolts, hooks, lights - with checkmarks next to some of them.


ARRAF: Mohammad says he and everyone else knew ISIS was building car bombs in the warehouses. But if you said anything to them, they would put a gun to your head. We go back out into the sunlight. People in Mosul were terrified of ISIS. But with security forces deployed here from other parts of the country, some are also afraid of what happens next.

In the street, I meet two drivers trying to get their trucks out of a nearby garage so they can work again. But Iraqi Security Forces nearby tell them they can't. Abu Ahmed doesn't want to tell me his full name. He's afraid Security Forces will arrest him for asking for his car back.

ABU AHMED: We're all afraid. We're all afraid. I don't understand what ISIS...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Unintelligible).

ARRAF: Yes, yes, I do.

AHMED: Please. I don't - I can't go there because they'll arrest me.

ARRAF: He isn't just afraid. He's in despair. He has five kids, and he hasn't worked in three years. Although Mosul was said to be liberated, there was still gunfire from a nearby neighborhood.

AHMED: I wanted to die, only die.

ARRAF: Why do you want to die, because you're tired?

AHMED: Because of this situation.

ARRAF: Because of the situation, he says, and he walks away. Most of the city has been liberated. But the people are still struggling to survive. Jane Arraf, NPR News, Mosul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.