A married British father says he became the first person to take a vacation in the ruins of the so-called Islamic State – and paid £ 4,000 for the privilege.
With no visas and a constant risk of kidnapping, militia beatings and even death, Andy Drury gave a three-day mini-break to Mosul, once hell on earth.
The father of four, Andy, 53, brought back unseen photographs of the devastated northern Iraq city that was once the center of the ISIS caliphate.
Andy Drury, the father of four, says he became the first person to take a vacation in the ruins of the so-called Islamic State in Mosul, northern Iraq. Pictured are the ruins of a huge hospital complex in Mosul that was destroyed in the fighting.
Andy, the owner of a construction firm in Guildford, Surrey, has spent the last 20 years touring areas of the planet that many dare not step on. Pictured are some of the houses destroyed during the battle with ISIS.
Andy stands next to a building that has been stained with an Arabic statement claiming to belong to ISIS
Amid shocking apocalyptic scenes, innocent survivors and their families talked to him about trying to rebuild their lives in the rubble.
Andy, the owner of a construction company in Guildford, Surrey, has spent the last 20 years touring areas of the world that most dare not step on – and this is not the first time he's in Iraq.
In 2016, he narrowly escaped death after visiting the front line in Bashiir, south of Kirkuk, where he spent time with Kurdish soldiers fighting ISIS.
During this meeting, Andy, who wears no bulletproof vest or helmet, was shot by ISIS, but fortunately escaped unharmed.
Andy, who lives with his wife and children, said his biggest reason for returning to the dangerous area last month was to see if the men he spent time with on the front line were still alive.
His three-day tour was divided into visiting the former front line near Kirkuk, as well as the former ISIS fortress in Mosul.
Andy said: “I must be the first tourist in the ruins of the Islamic State.
& # 39; My fixer Ammar (not his real name) would take reporters to the front line during Mosul's retreat.
& # 39; But he said he was more scared of me because, with the reporters, he was in an armored car.
& # 39; But I wore no vest or helmet. He said it was scarier.
During the first day of his trip last month, Andy said traveling to where he had visited the soldiers in 2016 proved much more difficult this time.
Andy's three-day tour was divided into visiting the former front line near Kirkuk, as well as the former ISIS stronghold in Mosul. In the picture, a mosque in Mosul, where Andy's guide said he saw a father burying his son and daughter
While traveling through Mosul, Andy says he saw many signs alerting people to bombs and unexploded ordnance.
He explained: “It was really stressful when the soldiers at the checkpoints put guns against the windows. It was clear that they hated us.
"It was then that we were approached by a taxi driver who said: 'I can take you there, I can take you to Kirkuk'.
& # 39; I thought & # 39; fucking hell & # 39; & # 39; & # 39; & # 39; & # 39; s, this is against everything I do, be approached by a driver where hostage taking is still plentiful and ISIS is still in the pockets in the mountains.
"I asked," How are you going to do this? "And he said he would take us along country roads, behind people's houses and through the gardens. He said he had done this before.
I was nervous, my heart stayed in my mouth for 20 minutes. We were turned away by the Iraqi forces and if we had been caught we could have been beaten or arrested for spying. We were in an area we should not be in.
“We entered Kirkuk and had no problem and went to an area called Taza.
Taza is one kilometer from a place called Bashiir, which was on the front line where I had been hit by ISIS before.
“Along the roadside were pictures of martyrs and posters with pictures of soldiers' faces. I was looking to see if I could find someone I knew.
That was when it became real to me. I could see a picture of someone I've been with.
A tattered "I love Mosul" sign is on the outskirts of the city. Andy says that upon entering the city, his driver said he would be disturbed
Andy found a building that had been marked with a & # 39; n & # 39; by ISIS. He said: "What ISIS was doing was putting this" n "symbol on Christian houses, picking them up and saying that this building belongs to ISIS.
At the final checkpoint, leaving Taza, the soldiers knew every guy in my picture of them. They pointed to a guy and said he had been killed.
“There was a group of about four of the five he spent most of his time with and he was one of them. I had given him money for a calling card and we talked about his life, his family, his village and how he hoped to return one day, but he never did.
& # 39; I was on the road and asked where he had been killed and they said & # 39; on this road, a kilometer above & # 39 ;, so it kind of left me a little breathless.
& # 39; I feel disappointed even now that we couldn't get to Bashiir, although I found out what happened to all those guys I was with.
“I know only one of the 12 people was killed and I still want to see them again.
"I promised everyone on the front line that day 2016 that I would meet them again and I will keep my promise."
Then Andy was ready to go to Mosul, where ISIS made its last position.
Andy said: “Driving from Iraq and Kurdistan, all the buildings were beautiful and then changed. I've never seen anything like it, it was like an apocalyptic movie.
“The buildings had big holes from which they had taken air strikes. There were bits of rubble and then completely destroyed buildings.
Andy said, & # 39; The buildings had large holes from which they had taken air strikes. There were bits of rubble and then completely destroyed buildings.
Andy poses with an Iraqi father and his family who survived the devastation in Mosul. The man was watering a plant in the rubble amid the ruins of his house when he was approached by Andy
"Our driver told me that I would be disturbed."
“We stopped at a restaurant where the waiters didn't really want us there. The coffee was almost thrown on the table.
“We were sitting drinking our coffees and talking about the rules for what would happen today and Ammar pointed to a large hole across the street from where we were sitting.
He said this was the insurance building where ISIS would expel homosexuals.
"I asked what would happen to the restaurant when that happened." Has it been closed?
“But he said people who hate gay people sit and watch over coffee while people are thrown out of the big tower building.
I was in shock. I had read about that building and seen pictures in the press. But being so close, five or ten meters away from where only a year and a half ago people were being thrown out for being gay …
Farther west of Mosul, where the worst battles had taken place, was Hashd on every corner. They are the local militia. They are dressed in black.
& # 39; They are a bit like the SS. They are not the Iraqi army and if they do not like you, you are screwed.
“We took the side roads and could see where the house-to-house battles had taken place.
& # 39; There was black writing saying & # 39; this building belongs to ISIS, stay out & # 39 ;.
Andy and his tour guides are depicted in ruins near where the Tigris river flows through Mosul
& # 39; There would be a symbol & # 39; not in some of the buildings. This was like the Nazis during World War II who would mark buildings where Jews lived.
& # 39; what ISIS was doing was putting this symbol & # 39; n & # 39; in the Christian houses, picking them up and saying that this building belongs to ISIS.
“They not only labeled the houses, they dragged people out of them and killed them. They would be shot dead and ISIS would take control of the building, awaiting the final battle.
The horrible similarities between the Nazis and ISIS shocked Andy, who said the sheer devastation of the area was difficult to understand.
He added: 'We drove through the destroyed streets.
“You could see dishes of rotting food and then there was an opening.
& # 39; The opening was a playground and there was a children's swing.
Ironically, everything around this playground was destroyed beyond that swing.
“I don't know if during the battle anyone showed humanity and didn't blow it up or the bombs just missed.
As I walked through the playground, there was a house in front of me that had this beautiful window and door.
“I went there because something called me.
& # 39; On the left side of the building was a children's room and I was crying.
& # 39; I am a father, and in that building I was approached by a Christian who had stayed in Mosul and remained during the conflict.
“She told me they had taken four bodies from that house the day before, three children and an adult. You can smell death.
“We drove to another square, which opened up, and there were items everywhere, like unused cartridges and RPGs.
“There was evidence of only chaos and signs of unexploded bombs.
“There was a building surrounded by rubble and a Beko refrigerator with the door open.
Andy's guide, Ammar, stands in an arch next to the Tigris River. He says the Iraqi army would drag ISIS fighters there and throw them in the water.
During his trip to Mosul, Andy was at constant risk of kidnapping, militia beatings and even death. Pictured is a rocket lying in the rubble.
“I went to the fridge and there was a man who owned the fridge who had come to water a plant.
“He told me he was drinking water because it was life.
"I was standing on a pile of rubble outside his house and he said under your feet that you have the bodies of four or five ISIS fighters."
"I was about to ask the man …
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