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Special Report

  • Senior International Correspondent: Arwa Damon
  • Photojournalist and Editor: Brice Lainé
  • Producers: Hamdi Alkhshali and Tim Lister
This feature is best experienced with sound

In November 2016, CNN’s Arwa Damon and Brice Lainé entered eastern Mosul with Iraqi security forces. Their convoy soon came under attack by ISIS fighters. Arwa and her producer, Hamdi, who was back behind the front line, relied on an old cellphone to keep in touch. The group was under siege for 28 hours.

November 4 2016

with Iraqi counter-terrorism unit

  • Arwa Damon Hamdi, we have been ambushed.
  • A suicide car bomb targeted our convoy. We are taking heavy fire.
  • We are surrounded from all directions.
  • Hamdi Alkhshali Working all my power to get you out and I will, Inshallah.
  • I know you are trying.
  • R U OK?
  • .....
  • Yes.
  • How is things?
  • No one has reached us.
  • We barely have enough guys for guard, or so it feels
  • How bad is it?
  • Ammo low. Suicide car bombs. It’s insane. Gunshots. Building shaking.

Two months later, Arwa and Brice returned to the scene to track down the soldiers and families they met in those terrifying hours, to find out about the continuing threat posed by ISIS and to witness the humanity that thrives in Mosul, despite everything.

We had to go back — not just as journalists, but as human beings — to see what had happened to everyone we’d left behind: the soldiers and the civilians.
Arwa Damon, CNN Senior International Correspondent

Ambushed by ISIS

All the intelligence indicated that ISIS had moved most of its fighters to the west. But it was wrong.
Arwa Damon, CNN Senior International Correspondent
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Horror and hospitality

The fear, the terror, what we saw — we feel reborn again now.
Farah, Mosul resident

Hopes for a fresh start

The women no longer have to wear black, and the men can shave if they want to. At least now it’s a choice.
Arwa Damon, CNN Senior International Correspondent

Life and death under ISIS

We liberated eastern Mosul and that’s proof the blood of the martyrs was not in vain.
Major Hazem, Iraqi Army

Looking to the future

I am still little, I was scared. I didn’t want to die. I want to be a doctor.
Ahmed, aged 10

Healing and sadness

Iraqis young and old are good at hiding the trauma … but their eyes tell a different story.
Arwa Damon, CNN Senior International Correspondent
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