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A walk through western Mosul

News 25 Apr 2017

left right A flag of Iraq is seen outside a house on a street controlled by Iraqi Federal Police in western Mosul, Iraq, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 1/15 left right A broken window is seen inside an abandoned house in western Mosul, Iraq, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 2/15 left right A sink is seen in an abandoned house in western Mosul, Iraq, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 3/15 left right Food containers lie on a windowsill of a shop damaged during fighting in western Mosul, Iraq, April 10, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 4/15 left right Rugs, a chair and an empty box of ammunition are seen inside a room at a railway station in western Mosul, Iraq, April 10, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 5/15 left right Mannequins lie on shelves in an abandoned shop in western Mosul, Iraq, April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 6/15 left right Stools stand on a table at an empty restaurant in western Mosul, Iraq, April 14, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 7/15 left right Decorations hang on a wall at an abandoned shop in western Mosul, Iraq, April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 8/15 left right Empty cupboards are seen inside an abandoned house in western Mosul, Iraq, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 9/15 left right Mechanical parts hang on a wall in an abandoned workshop in western Mosul, Iraq, April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 10/15 left right Buildings damaged during fighting are seen on an empty street in western Mosul, Iraq, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 11/15 left right Interior of an empty museum is seen in western Mosul, Iraq, April 2, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 12/15 left right Wires hang in front of a destroyed shop in western Mosul, Iraq, April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 13/15 left right A rusted car is seen from inside an abandoned house in western Mosul, Iraq, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 14/15 left right Debris and garbage lie on the ground in front of an entrance of damaged houses in western Mosul, Iraq, April 2, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH 'EMPTY CASARES' FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH 'WIDER IMAGE' FOR ALL STORIES. 15/15 By Andres Martinez Casares and Ulf Laessing | IRAQ, Mosul

IRAQ, Mosul Inside are tattered curtains, crumbling walls and torn up floors. Outside is a near ghost town.

Five stools stand on tables in a small restaurant, put there by staff after the last meat dish was cleared. A few streets away mannequins are on display in a fashion shop.

This is western Mosul, a place of narrow streets and small shops as commonplace are those found from Marrakesh to Cairo to Istanbul.

That's if it wasn't for the gun shots fired by Iraqi policemen targeting Islamic State fighters a few hundreds meters (yards) away. Government forces have evicted the Sunni Muslim militants from much of the city, Iraq's second largest, but not here in the west.

Restaurants, internet cafes, women's fashion shops, photo studios, pharmacies and apartments have been left abandoned by occupants who had fled to U.N. camps or found shelter with relatives in eastern Mosul, which is fully control by government forces.

Many shops have been looted, such as the state telecoms office which still advertises internet packages in frontage riddled by bullet holes.

Some places look normal, such as a kebab restaurant left in orderly fashion after staff closed up. Menus on the wall still offered dishes starting from 500 Iraqi dinars ($.043).

Elsewhere, a shop's window display now consists of army-issued plastic food boxes. Soldiers, camping out on mats, are only occupants.

Walking the abandoned streets of Mosul these days is no gentle stroll: you hurry cross any street to escape snipers. Soldiers have put up blankets on windows or narrow street openings near the frontline to hide movements from the enemy.

Inside the buildings it's often eerily quiet as walls muffle the gunfire, the constant background noise. Something moves – is it the wind or something far more deadly?

But you are not totally alone, even without the military.

Amid these deserted streets there are still some signs of civilian life. A handful residents refuse to leave despite the proximity of the frontline.

A Reuters photo essay on life in western Mosul can be seen at reut.rs/2pv9OHE

(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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