The Things They Carried

Photos by Maya Alleruzzo

Sgt. Ahmed Abdelaziz, with Iraq’s special forces, has been almost continually deployed fighting the Islamic State group ever since the militants overran nearly a third of Iraq in the summer of 2014. Now he’s on the front lines of Fallujah, a city that was declared “fully liberated” on Sunday by the commander leading the fight against IS.

Abdelaziz has with him what he always brings into battle: a photo of his brother.

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It’s not a smiling family portrait. It is a picture on his mobile phone of his brother Saad’s body among hundreds of captured Iraqi troops killed in a 2014 massacre carried out by the jihadis. IS killed more than 1,000 soldiers from Camp Speicher at a nearby Saddam Hussein-era complex of palaces in the city of Tikrit, north of Baghdad.

 At first, Abdelaziz hadn’t been sure of his brother’s fate, but his worst fears were confirmed when IS released a video of the massacre and he recognized Saad in it. On his phone, he flipped through a series of stills from the video, saying the grisly images are reminders of his purpose in the fight.

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