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Allied forces gain ground: Iraqi Prime Minister declares end to ISIS caliphate, but plight of refugees remains dire

By Miriam Raftery; Photos by Kainoa Little

Photo, left:  Refugees flee the embattled city of Mosul

July 4, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) -- East County Magazine has obtained dramatic photos from the Battle of Mosul, taken in the Iraqi city during April 2017 by photographer Kainoa Little, who specializes in photographing war zones and refugees. 

His images show Iraqi federal police fighting to free Mosul from occupation by Islamic State, or ISIL, militants who seized the city in June 2014.  The photos poignantly depict the courage of soldiers and at times, fear, as they fight amid the ruins and also the anguish of residents and refugees fleeing the city. 

The battle captured in these April photos continues, with the allies gaining ground. Today, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi held a press conference to praise his troops for a “big victory in Mosul” including retaking what remains of the al-Nuri mosque in the old city, Associated Press reports. 

Photo, right: Iraqi federal police exchange gunfire with ISIS across a theatre

“Praise be to God, we managed to liberate (Mosul) and proved the others were wrong, the people of Mosul supported and stood with our security forces against terrorism," al-Abadi declared.

San Diego’s East County is home to some 40,000 to 50,000 Iraqi Chaldean Christians as well as Kurdish and Muslim immigrants and refugees from the region.  Many fled their homeland due to persecution by ISIS, now watching and praying that the Iraqi military, along with allied forces including the U.S., will be able to wrest control of Mosul from ISIS.

While the plight of residents and refugees has grown increasingly desperate with food and water in short supply, according to the United Nations, the end of the long siege may finally be at hand. Indeed, al Abadi has declared an end to the Iraqi caliphate in recent days.

Remaining ISIS fighters are in what al Abadi described as a fight to their death  in a portion of the old city.  As Iraqi and allied forces gain ground, ISIS has resorted to using children as human shields and using suicide bombers to wage terror among refugees and civilians.  

ISIS forces in the city have shrunk from thousands to a few hundred, now trapped without food, water or medicine, according to the Iraqi government, Reuters reports.

ISIS militants have already been uprooted in some other areas of Iraq, remaining only a few portions of western Iraq and neighboring Syria, where ISIS is also under siege.

Iraq's prime minister added that he has given orders for troops to begin rebuilding and stabilizing areas of the city from which ISIS has been ousted. 

Photo, left:  Civilians flee battle in the Musharrifah area of Mosul.

Facing difficulties selling his photos to major media outlets despite the high quality of many of his images, Little decided to make them available free online.  As a show of support for a photojournalist who risked his personal safety to capture these compelling photos, 

East County Magazine sent a modest payment to the photographer because we value his work.  We encourage others who find these images powerful to do the same. (You can find Little’s contact info at  www.kainoalittle.com,) 

Scroll down to view a selection of additional images of Little's from the Battle of Mosul:

Photo,below:  Iraqi soldier enters a theatre in the Old City suspected of containing an explosive device. Seconds later, an ISIS militant opened fire from the rafters.

Photo, below: Federal policeman takes fire at theatre; several bullets impacted the other side of the wall, where he had been looking through a window.

Photo, below: Federal police fire at ISIS on a street in Mosul's old ctiy.

Photo, below: A Humvee passes refugees fleeing battles in Musharrifah.

Photo, below: Terrified refugees escape fighting.

Photo: American and Burmese medics are unable to revive a sniper victim, one of countless civilians slaughtered by ISIS in violation of international law.

View more of Kainoa Little's  Mosul photos and other images at http://www.kainoalitte.comhttp://imgur.com/gallery/rxdus , and http://www.boredpanda.com/armed-forces-refugees-photos-kainoa-little-islamic-state/ .  Scroll down to view more of his compelling photos from Mosul.

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