Maj. Ahsan Rasem recognizes members of the Islamic State (IS) by their clothes and explosives belts. Rasem is the team leader of the Civil Defense unit that is recovering bodies in the Meydan neighborhood of Mosul. A year after the liberation of Iraq’s second-largest city, Rasem and his men have been sent to free this last, largely destroyed neighborhood from the sickening stench of death so civilians can return and rebuild their houses.
“These are the bodies that no family members have come forward to claim,” Rasem said during a break from his gruesome task. White body bags are waiting to be collected, and the remains of explosives belts, clothes and blankets are scattered around in the dust. Rasem’s team members have removed their nose coverings to take a breath of fresh air beside the Tigris River.