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After Islamic State defeat, a daunting search for bodies in the rubble
Samaher Saddam cleans the entrance of her damaged house on the west side of Mosul on July 13, 2017, a few days after the Iraqi government’s announcement of the “liberation” of the embattled city from the Islamic State. (Felipe Dana/AP)

 The streets of Mosul’s Old City are littered with bodies, tangled between shattered stones and remnants of the lives they left behind.

In the baking summer heat, exhausted rescue crews are now sifting through the debris of the toughest battle against the Islamic State in what became its final redoubt in the city.

As Iraqi ground troops, U.S.-led coalition jets and Islamic State militants pulverized the Old City’s winding maze of streets, thousands of civilians were caught in the crossfire.

But the area is now deserted, its inhabitants evacuated to houses, camps or prison cells across the province in recent months.

A week after Iraqi officials declared victory in Mosul, all that remains in the Old City is rubble and unknown hundreds of bodies.

Inside the battle for Mosul

The fight to reclaim the city of Mosul from the Islamic State is one of the biggest yet against the militant group.

More than a million civilians are thought to be trapped in the city, and the already difficult battle is complicated by the uneasy mix of forces that have formed a coalition to rid the city of extremists.