Top Middle East photos from 2016

 Top Middle East photos from 2016

For the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2016 was a year of grueling warfare.

It saw the campaign against the Islamic State group gain momentum, with international coalitions or local forces pushing back their territory in Iraq, Syria and Libya. But the militants also lashed back. They carried carried out a spectacular truck bomb attack on a shopping mall complex in Iraq as people prepared for the Muslim holiday Eid. Their Egypt branch carried out a similarly brazen suicide attack at Cairo's main cathedral.

Operations to wrest the group from Mosul, their last major stronghold in Iraq, began in October. But the fight has bogged down in tough urban warfare. And in Syria, the fight against IS was eclipsed by the brutal last days of the rebel-held enclave in Aleppo, which fell to government forces after weeks of siege.

Mercifully, 2016 also brought opportunities for people to gather for sacred days and in celebration of their daily lives.

Here is a selection of top 2016 photos from AP photographers across the region.

To see all of the top photos of 2016 galleries, click here.

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Nat Castañeda is an interdisciplinary visual artist based in Brooklyn, New York. A California native, Castañeda works primarily in video and collage, with an emphasis on tactile intimacy with her materials remaining an important aspect of all her projects. Common issues in Castañeda’s work are the conflating of iconography and pornography, the questioning of traditional gender binaries, and the role of technology within personal narratives. She received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts and has shown at venues such as El Museo del Barrio and Electronic Arts Intermix. In addition to her art practice, Castañeda currently works at The Associated Press where she leads a team that curates AP's online archive of historic and contemporary photojournalism. Castañeda’s photography has appeared in the New York Times,U.S. News & World Report and USA Today.