This is what victory looks like in the war against ISIS, Iraqi police, soldiers and paramilitaries flash the sign, but there is no fanfare for the victors in the newly conquered town of al-dour, outside Tikrit.
A drive through al-Dour, passing by ISIS’ logos painted on the walls is an eerie experience.
ISIS has been driven out of this town and probably will soon be driven out of Tikrit. But what they leave behind are ghost towns. It’s dangerous, there are hundreds of IEDs left behind. Civilians have been told to stay away.
“In one day,” says Brigadier Baha Yasin, “We found five hundred and eleven improvised explosive devices. An unbelievable number.”
He was injured by shrapnel from one of those IEDs. These soldiers describe them as sewer rats-are hiding out, but taking prisoners doesn’t seem to be on the cards.
“They won’t get away,” this soldier tells me. “We will kill them.”
Almost thirty thousand mostly shia troops have flooded into this predominantly Sunni-Arab area, raising fears of sectarian tensions and revenge killings.
There are, however, Sunnis who have joined the fight against ISIS. Last spring ISIS fighters attacked the home of Abdekrazaq Hamadi, a Sunni tribal leader. They killed his wife, two sons and two grandsons. He soon took up arms against ISIS.
“I know the people who killed my family,” he says. “We want to fight these terrorists, drive them out of this area and never see them again.”
In another location outside Tikrit, an ISIS flag flutters atop a communications tower in the distance. These Sunni fighters have made common cause with shia troops to retake Tikrit.
Proudly showing me his new Iranian sniper rifle, he is confident ISIS’ days are numbered.
“Now they are trying to escape, but they can’t,” he says. “This will be their graveyard.”
With no crowds to cheer them, the soldiers cheer themselves, they may be winning this battle, but the war is far from over.