Guardian journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad’s sketches have helped him cope with reporting from the frontline. Now they will illustrate a book of his experiences

• See more of Abdul-Ahad’s drawings here

Last July, as the Iraqi army was liberating Mosul after nine months of catastrophic fighting against Isis, the Guardian journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad found himself in a makeshift military post in the old city. The building was so badly damaged, it was hard to tell what it had been before – a shopping centre, perhaps, or a hotel. “The floor had collapsed so you had to walk on the joists,” he recalls. “Soldiers were sleeping there and manning positions with bodies rotting around them. There was faint Isis resistance from a couple of streets two blocks away. There were still airstrikes happening. You could hear snipers shooting.”

Outside, the old city lay in ruins. Abdul-Ahad had never witnessed a scene of such total devastation. “I’ve been covering wars for 14 years in Syria, Yemen, Iraq,” he says, “and I’ve never seen anything like the old city of Mosul. You don’t see streets any more. You can’t distinguish where the buildings stood. It’s all one sea of concrete and rubble.”

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