A fire set by the Islamic State at oil fields south of Mosul.

In the battle against the Islamic State for Mosul,
Iraq’s second-largest city, there is no continuous front line, but a patchwork of battlegrounds in the city and all around its edge.

When the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, retreats from a position, it tries to leave as much damage behind as possible, including burning oil field wells to provide concealment ahead of a government advance. Snipers are also in place, ready to strike.

A village or neighborhood that is retaken by government troops could soon be flooded again with extremist fighters, who are rarely far away.

A convoy of Iraqi federal police vehicles.

The police have been tasked with maintaining areas of the front line; nearby, ISIS fighters are ready and in position.
When holding ground and not on an advance, the two sides intermittently exchange rifle and mortar fire, low-level shows of force that tend to harass more than inflict serious casualties.

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