I visited Mosul on the day it fell to Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and a small detachment of US Special Forces on 11 April 2003. As we drove into the city, we passed lines of pick-up trucks piled high with loot returning to the Kurdish-controlled enclave in northern Iraq. US soldiers at a checkpoint, over which waved the Stars and Stripes, were shooting at a man in the distance who kept bobbing up from behind a wall and waving the Iraqi flag.
If there had ever been any sympathy between liberators and liberated in Mosul, it was disappearing fast. Inside the city, every government building, including the university, was being systematically looted by Kurds and Arabs alike. I saw one man who had stolen an enormous and very ugly red and gold sofa from the governor’s office dragging it slowly down the street. He would push one end of the sofa a few feet forward and then go to the other end and repeat the same process. The mosques were soon calling on the Sunni Arab majority to build barricades to defend their neighbourhoods from marauders.
We parked our vehicle near a medieval quarter of ancient stone buildings while we went to see a Christian ecclesiastic. When we got back, we found that our driver was very frightened and wanted to get out of Mosul as fast as possible. He explained that soon after we left a crowd had gathered, recognised our number plates as Kurdish and debated lynching him and setting fire to his car before being restrained by a local religious leader moments before they took action.