While many Americans have only managed to visit Mosul as a grunt on the ground or from 5,000 feet in the air, one American tourist found himself meandering around the city not long after being wrested from ISIS control- and walked away unscathed.

Ding Liu shared photos which give a rarely-seen insight to a place that the western world mostly sees through news cameras and aerial bombing footage.

Ding’s photos show liberated Mosul as a largely destroyed, yet miraculously functional city, complete with marketplaces, gas stations, temporary housing and even some semblance of a “life as normal” mentality.

When asked why he went, Ding said he wanted “To share my experience as a normal American traveler in Iraq. Show my friends, family and social media followers the true devastation and aftermath of war without [mainstream media] propaganda. Hopefully, I could inspire others to explore this part of the world as well.”

Ding crossed into Mosul by going through Turkey, passing through Kurdish-controlled territory before going across the Tigris river to Mosul.

“A large majority of western Mosul has been reduced to rubble, with bodies still buried underneath,” Ding wrote on Facebook. “Thousands of Mosul families have been left without a home. Schools have been leveled, utility grids wrecked, highways pounded into broken dirt roads.”

Ding was able to bypass a more tightly-controlled Iraqi military checkpoint, allowing him to enter without the required Iraqi visa.
He was also able to photograph the checkpoint despite it being not allowed.
“Checkpoints are vulnerable; one of the places that ISIS would attack with car bombs,” he said. “Well, I took a picture with my GoPro. Rules are meant to be broken!”

Interestingly enough, Ding didn’t tell his family he was going into Iraq. Telling them he loved them the night prior to his excursion, they only found out about his trip after he sent them photos.

“They supported my decision,” he said.

Mosul was occupied by ISIS for over three years and was liberated in 2017 by Iraqi forces backed by the US and other allies.

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