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A flag of Iraq is seen outside a house on a street controlled by Iraqi Federal Police in western Mosul, Iraq, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

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By Andres Martinez Casares and Ulf Laessing

IRAQ, Mosul (Reuters) - Inside are tattered curtains, crumbling walls and torn up floors. Outside is a near ghost town.

Five stools stand on tables in a small restaurant, put there by staff after the last meat dish was cleared. A few streets away mannequins are on display in a fashion shop.

This is western Mosul, a place of narrow streets and small shops as commonplace are those found from Marrakesh to Cairo to Istanbul.

That's if it wasn't for the gun shots fired by Iraqi policemen targeting Islamic State fighters a few hundreds metres (yards) away. Government forces have evicted the Sunni Muslim militants from much of the city, Iraq's second largest, but not here in the west.

Restaurants, internet cafes, women's fashion shops, photo studios, pharmacies and apartments have been left abandoned by occupants who had fled to U.N. camps or found shelter with relatives in eastern Mosul, which is fully control by government forces.

Many shops have been looted, such as the state telecoms office which still advertises internet packages in frontage riddled by bullet holes.

Some places look normal, such as a kebab restaurant left in orderly fashion after staff closed up. Menus on the wall still offered dishes starting from 500 Iraqi dinars ($.043).

Elsewhere, a shop's window display now consists of army-issued plastic food boxes. Soldiers, camping out on mats, are only occupants.

Walking the abandoned streets of Mosul these days is no gentle stroll: you hurry cross any street to escape snipers. Soldiers have put up blankets on windows or narrow street openings near the frontline to hide movements from the enemy.

Inside the buildings it's often eerily quiet as walls muffle the gunfire, the constant background noise. Something moves - is it the wind or something far more deadly?

But you are not totally alone, even without the military.

Amid these deserted streets there are still some signs of civilian life. A handful residents refuse to leave despite the proximity of the frontline.

A Reuters photo essay on life in western Mosul can be seen at http://reut.rs/2pv9OHE

(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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