Eight children and four adults escaped their ISIS controlled village outside Mosul. After walking through the desert for three days, they reached Kurdish Peshmerga troops who searched them for weapons before transporting them to a refugee camp. Kurdistan, Iraq, Sept. 2016
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Eight children and four adults escaped their ISIS controlled village outside Mosul. After walking through the desert for three days, they reached Kurdish Peshmerga troops who searched them for weapons before transporting them to a refugee camp. Kurdistan, Iraq, Sept. 2016Magnus Wennman—Aftonbladet/REX/Shutterstock
Eight children and four adults escaped their ISIS controlled village outside Mosul. After walking through the desert for three days, they reached Kurdish Peshmerga troops who searched them for weapons before transporting them to a refugee camp. Kurdistan, Iraq, Sept. 2016
In the mountains outside Mosul, a group of twelve, including men, women and children who escaped from an IS-controlled village, have sought refuge with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces on the frontline in Kurdistan, Iraq, Sept. 2016
A boy at the Debaga refugee camp, outside Mosul in northern Iraq, Oct. 2016. Displaced people (IDPs) are fleeing to this camp which is already overcrowded with many more refugees expected as the offensive against ISIS continues.
As the Iraqi army and Kurdish Persmerga offensive against ISIS progresses, displaced people flee to the Debaga refugee camp, located outside Mosul in northern Iraq, Oct. 2016.
As the Iraqi army and Kurdish Persmerga offensive against ISIS progresses, displaced people flee to the Debaga refugee camp, located outside Mosul in northern Iraq, Oct. 2016.
IA young boy poses for a portrait at the Debaga refugee camp, an old football stadium that's been turned into a temporary home for thousands of refugees fleeing the war between ISIS and coalition troops in northern Iraq, Oct. 2016.
Thousands of people gather at the funeral of five Peshmerga soldiers killed by an IED explosion. One of the dead soldier’s sons Lefaws, 11, breaks down and screams when the ambulance passes by with an image of his father mounted on the front of the car. Behind him, his brother, Shalews, silently cries. Khalifa, Iraq, Oct. 2016.
Thousands of people gather at the funeral of five Peshmerga soldiers killed by an IED explosion in their village of Khalifa, Iraq. The village has lost nearly 300 soldiers in the war against ISIS, Oct. 2016.
The kitchen in an abandoned house that was occupied by ISIS in a village liberated Iraqi troops and Kurdish Peshmerga in northern, Iraq, Oct. 2016.
A doll and a fighter's vest found in a house once occupied by ISIS in northern, Iraq, Oct. 2016.
IAs Iraqi and Kurdish troops launched an operation to retake Iraq's second largest city Mosul from ISIS control, remnants of life under ISIS occupation became evident in abandoned houses in northern Iraq, Oct. 2016.
IA tunnel inside an abandoned house in the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq, recaptured from the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists by Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces, Oct. 2016.
Eight children and four adults escaped their ISIS controlled village outside Mosul. After walking through the desert for three days, they reached Kurdish Peshmerga troops who sear
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Magnus Wennman—Aftonbladet/REX/Shutterstock
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The Road to Mosul: What ISIS Leaves Behind

Oct 26, 2016

Secret tunnels, suicide belts, bullets and syringes. As Iraqi and Kurdish forces slowly retake the villages and towns around Mosul that were captured by the Islamic State in June 2014, what has been left behind paints the picture of a movement that was prepared for war and nothing else, says Magnus Wennman.

The staff photographer for the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet visited those villages in the hours after Islamic State militants were chased out. “Bomb experts did their best to look for all the homemade bombs left behind, and then we were able to get into some of the houses used by ISIS,” he tells TIME. “I got the feeling that those who lived in the villages did not prepare for a future there.”

Read next: Darkness at Noon: ISIS Sets Oil and Sulfur Fires in the Battle for Mosul

Wennman’s carefully composed images paint the picture of a region in the mist of yet another upheaval as the battle to root out ISIS continues. His work shows men, women and children escaping the front lines, most of them with few belongings. “The stories they told were terrible," he says. "Stories of starvation, torture and rape.”

“The refugee camps outside Mosul are already full,” the photographer adds, “but they are still waiting for all the people who are trapped inside in Mosul. It seems that ISIS forces them to remain inside [the city].” So far, close to 10,000 people have fled the fights, with a million still trapped inside Mosul.

Wennman is back in Stockholm now, but he hopes to return to Mosul soon, as the large-scale operation to retake the city is poised to last weeks.

Magnus Wennman is a staff photographer for Aftonbladet. Follow him on Instagram @magnuswennman.

Alice Gabriner, who edited this photo essay, is TIME's international photo editor.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

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