Haunting photos from inside former strongholds of the Islamic State

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A member of the federal-police forces takes a selfie in front of a defaced black flag commonly used by ISIS militants, during a battle with ISIS militants in the Wahda district of eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 10, 2017.
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REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

The big fight for the Iraqi city of Mosul is yet another case of ISIS losing the ground it seized in its blitz across Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Just last week, Iraqi forces reclaimed the eastern half of Mosul, and it’s only a matter of time until the entire city is back in Iraqi hands. It’s just the latest in a string of setbacks for the terror group, which has lost upwards of 50% of its territory so far.

Whether ISIS fighters happen to die fighting, or flee their positions to fight another day – they often leave a treasure trove of ordnance, propaganda, and intelligence materials that can prove helpful against them.

Here’s what was left behind after ISIS took off.

David Choi contributed to a previous version of this article.


In much of its territory, ISIS has its own propaganda posted to show the people who’s in charge, like this billboard with Quranic verses in the historic city of Palmyra, Syria.

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Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

And ISIS flags abound, like this one in an abandoned building.

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Rodi Said/Reuters

Tripods and a projector were left inside an ancient hammam, or steam bath, which was used by ISIS as a media center in Manbij, Syria.

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Rodi Said/Reuters

Here’s what else remained there.

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Rodi Said/Reuters

Some buildings feature tunnels, for fighters to move into and out of positions. This was found in Sinjar, Iraq.

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REUTERS/Ari Jalal

Other buildings featured car parts, which, according to Syria Democratic Forces fighters, were used by ISIS militants to prepare car bombs.

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Rodi Said/Reuters

This heavily-armored suicide car bomb was seized by Iraqi soldiers in Mosul earlier this week.

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Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

While this ISIS tank, along with other ordnance, was captured in November.

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Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

There seems to be no shortage of ammo. ISIS stacked these rocket-propelled grenades at a school in Fallujah.

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REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

They also left behind explosives …

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Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

… And other ordnance and plenty of sandbags to protect the perimeter.

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Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

While Iraqi forces can take selfies in former ISIS strongholds …

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Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

… Valuable intelligence can be gleaned from documents the group’s fighters leave behind, like this book found in Fallujah.

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REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

These Russian passports were found in Mosul.

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Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

This is a marriage certificate issued by the Islamic State.

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Ahmed Saad/Reuters

Besides the wide variety of ammo and weaponry found abandoned …

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REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

… Or rooms dedicated to making powerful bombs …

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Rodi Said/Reuters

… Iraqi and US forces have found drones that ISIS uses to drop explosives.

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Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

Anti-ISIS forces have also discovered the haunting cells of former ISIS prisons.

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Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters

One thing the anti-terror forces are likely to see more of, as ISIS continues to lose ground, is the group’s mass graves for its own fighters.

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Khalid Al Mousily/Reuters