Fa­ther-of-four leaves fam­ily be­hind to visit Iraq and other war zones

Daily Mail - - News - By Chris Brooke

WHEN Andy Drury shows you his hol­i­day snaps, it looks like he’s just come back from a war zone. Which is not sur­pris­ing – be­cause that is ex­actly where he has been.

The build­ing firm boss is a vet­eran war zone tourist who has vis­ited trou­ble spots in­clud­ing Syria, Afghanista­n, So­ma­lia and Chech­nya.

Now he has be­come the first British tourist to visit the bat­tle-torn Iraq city of Mo­sul since the fall of Is­lamic State.

Mr Drury, 53, spent £4,000 on a three­day ‘hol­i­day in hell’ trip to north­ern Iraq which took him to the for­mer IS stronghold, which was re­cap­tured by the Iraqis in 2017. His hol­i­day snaps show a city re­duced to rub­ble by war.

Dur­ing the trip last month, Mr Drury, from Guild­ford, Sur­rey, spent a day at the for­mer war front­line near Kirkuk, an­other day in Mo­sul and the fi­nal day at a refugee camp. He said: ‘I must be the first per­son to have been a tourist in the ru­ins of Is­lamic State.’ He em­ployed a guide to help him get around, but wore no pro­tec­tive cloth­ing and was in con­stant dan­ger of kid­nap­ping, beat­ings from rogue mili­tia and even death.

He said the drive to Mo­sul was ‘like an apoc­a­lyp­tic film’.

Some ar­eas were ‘com­pletely flat­tened’ by air strikes and there were men­ac­ing mili­tia on ev­ery cor­ner. Mr Drury saw marks on the sides of build­ings to show where Chris­tian fam­i­lies once lived be­fore they were taken over by IS ex­trem­ists.

He said: ‘ They didn’t just la­bel the houses – they dragged peo­ple out and killed them. They’d be shot and killed and then IS would take con­trol of the build­ing with their guns wait­ing for the fi­nal bat­tle to come.’

Around Mo­sul there were re­minders of for­mer res­i­dents, such as plates with rot­ting food in the rub­ble and a swing that was once in a chil­dren’s play­ground.

He said: ‘You could smell the death. It’s strange – you knew that thou­sands of peo­ple had died where I was.’ Mr Drury found a man wa­ter­ing a plant amid the rub­ble and soon his fam­ily ap­peared be­side him.

He said the en­tire fam­ily had ‘bits of de­bris in them’, adding: ‘The man said ev­ery time there was fight­ing, you were run­ning from one house to an­other be­cause you thought the air at­tack was go­ing to be there, and you ran be­tween bul­lets like rain to get out.’ In an­other con­ver­sa­tion with a lo­cal res­i­dent he was told how the end of the IS regime came when the Iraqi army de­cided to ‘oblit­er­ate’ the area as they were los­ing too many men in street-to-street fight­ing.

The fi­nal day of his ‘ hol­i­day in hell’ took him to a refugee camp where there were nearly 50,000 peo­ple. Women sus­pected of be­ing fam­i­lies of IS fight­ers were sep­a­rated off. He spoke to a woman who ad­mit­ted two of her sons had joined IS and said that her hus­band was prob­a­bly dead.

She be­lieved at least one of her sons had also died. She said she re­gret­ted her sons had joined the ter­ror group be­cause they could not now pro­vide her with money.

A shocked Mr Drury said that, in or­der to sur­vive, she sold one of her daugh­ters to a cousin for cash. He added: ‘I thought to my­self, “What has made this woman like that? She spoke about her son dy­ing with no emo­tion. Was she evil? There prob­a­bly is some­thing hu­man in her some­where.’

The builder also vis­ited the front­line in north­ern Iraq dur­ing the height of the fight­ing in 2016.

He said at the time the main mo­ti­va­tion for his trip was to change mis­con­cep­tions some British peo­ple have about Mus­lims, see­ing them as an ‘en­emy’.

‘It was like an apoc­a­lyp­tic film’

Home: Andy Drury, wife Rachel and chil­dren. Right: In a war-shat­tered build­ing in Mo­sul Dev­as­tated: The hos­pi­tal com­plex where IS fight­ers made their fi­nal stand. Above: ‘I love Mo­sul’ sign on the city’s out­skirts

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