In June 2014, the Islamic State seized the city of Mosul in the northeastern part of Iraq. In just six days, ISIS managed to overtake a city that houses 1.5 million people.

Later that same year, the “Caliph” [or leader] of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, proclaimed the caliphate from the Great Mosque in Mosul. Two years later, on October 16th, the fight for Mosul began.

The aim was to reclaim the city and bring it back under official Iraqi control. The Iraqi officials leading the battle—along with the US-led coalition—thought they could overtake the city within a few months, but nothing turned out as expected. By November 2016, when this body of work was made, the scale of death and destruction had surprised everyone but ISIS. Even today, as fighting carries on from door-to-door, there is no definitive end in sight.

—Asger Ladefoged, staff photographer at Berlingske

Editor’s Note: Ladefoged’s project was recognized by the jury of the LensCulture Exposure Awards 2017—don’t miss the work from all 44 of the outstanding, international talents!

If you’re interested in seeing more work on this and similar topics, we’d recommend the following articles: Two Religions, One Roof, an intimate portrait of two families—one Christian, one Sunni—cohabiting in Iraq; Ladefoged’s other remarkable project, Joanna, about a Kurdish political refugee and Danish citizen who dropped out of school to join the fight against ISIS; and Jin-Jiyan-Azadi, a series on the all-female fighting units fighting ISIS in Kurdistan.