Iraqi amputees take the plunge to forget horrors of IS

1 / 4
An Iraqi man who lost a limb during the war against the Islamic State group sits by a swimming pool in Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, on September 1, 2018

With artificial limbs in the place of legs they lost to jihadists, a group of Iraqis plunged into a swimming pool for a special race aimed at helping them overcome the horrors of war.

Abdel Zahra Kazem, a soldier from southern Iraq who was wounded in an attack in Baghdad, said getting back in the pool had helped him to rediscover one of his passions in life.

"I've swum since I was a child and today I can start again," he said by the poolside at a hotel in Arbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

Rabie Abdellatif lost a leg in an attack by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Iraq's second city Mosul, which was left in ruins by the government's battle against the jihadists.

Thanks to his artificial limb, he said he has recovered "80 percent of my capabilities from life before".

"I can drive my car. I can work," he told AFP, his swimsuit and cap still dripping wet.

By the side of the pool, half a dozen men with artificial legs waited in the shade for their turn splashing in the water.

They were watched by officials from Kurdistan and Kuwait, which has provided funding for the rehabilitation of civilians and fighters from Iraqi Kurdish and federal forces.

The aim, said Arbil governor Nawzad Hadi, is to "give life and hope" to victims of IS.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi security personnel were wounded in the three-year battle against IS, which at its peak controlled nearly a third of the country as well as swathes of neighbouring Syria.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have also been wounded in attacks perpetrated for years by extremist groups across Iraq, which declared victory over IS in December.