How do you capture the reality of frontline bomb disposal?

The Iraqi bomb disposal teams are at the forefront of a deadly arms race. While Mosul was recently liberated from Daesh, the underfunded and undertrained Iraqi Security forces are still moving quickly to dispose of all the boobytraps left in its wake. This is bomb disposal at its most improvised.

WIRED photographer Cengiz Yar followed the patrol team of the Iraqi Army’s 16th Division Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit in June as part of our October issue feature story.

Whilst Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in the city on July 10, the fight between Iraqi forces and Daesh still raged in the near distance as Yar Jr. was following his assignment.

“We could hear the gun battles and occasionally see smoke rising from the explosions as we followed the men,” he says. “The unit rushed around, dismantling explosive factories, defusing the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) laid by Daesh at the side of the road, and inspecting suspected bombs. At one point a car rigged with explosives was pointed out in the middle of a crowded neighbourhood. No one was sure how big the bomb in the car might be so they needed to clear the area before doing anything to it”.

Then, the local militia showed up. In their attempts to help the 16th Division, they began to evacuate nearby civilians from their homes. “They started by shouting and banging on the doors of houses for everyone to get out,” Yar adds.

“People started running out of their homes, pulling on clothing, dragging their children while the militia men, waving their guns, shouted at them to run down the street. Few seemed to understand what was going on while kids ran around scared and crying” he says. “It was an intense situation and I was torn between photographing the men preparing to detonate the car and the families fleeing the scene”.

In the end, Yar hurried back to the EOD unit since that was the focus of the trip. “What stuck with me was watching the people in the neighbourhood running away in fear and shock”adds Yar.

“What the men were doing was making the neighbourhood safer, but at the same time it was painfully clear that no one at all felt safe yet”.

Read Defusing Mosul, written by John Beck with photography by Cengiz Yar Jr. in the October issue of WIRED magazine, on sale now. The feature is also available online.

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