On the ground floor of Falluja hospital, a symbol of the city’s rise from earlier wars, its most recent occupiers had set up a mosque. The jihadis of Islamic State (Isis) had rolled carpets across the reception room and erected a platform where religious figures gave sermons amid the mayhem of a trauma ward.
Outside stood a broken-down ambulance and a battered trolley. Around the corner, the hospital’s new guards had just buried an Isis fighter whose body had lain in the open since the militants fled six weeks ago.
Ever since, Iraq’s security forces have been slowly staking their claim inside Falluja, which had been branded over the past 13 years as either a “city of mosques” or a “city of resistance”. The newcomers have changed all that. It is now a city of ghosts and graffiti.