The Men Who Fought for Mosul


The Men Who Fought for Mosul

Reporter Ayman Oghanna joined a unit of the Iraqi special forces as they advanced on Mosul. He tells the story of the men who reclaimed the city.


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Transcript


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The funeral has taken place

in Slovakia of the murdered

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investigative

journalist, Jan Kuciak.

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Hundreds of mourners

attended the ceremony -

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a day after the burial

of his fiancee who was shot dead

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at the same time.

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Now on BBC News our reporter

Ayman Oghanna joins a unit

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of the Iraqi special forces

as they advanced on Mosul.

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He tells the story of the men

who reclaimed the city.

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The fight to retake Mosul. One of

the largest urban conflicts since

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the Second World War. And the

frontline in the battle the

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so-called Islamic State. I was given

rare access to an elite unit of

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Iraq's special forces. The first

team into Mosul. We're just getting

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ready to set up a base, and suddenly

we being fired upon by Isis. These

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are the men who reunited Iraq and

liberated Mosul. But at what cost?

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These are the soldiers of Iraq's

elite Counter-Terrorism Service.

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Spirits were high. To them, Mosul

was just another battle. And one

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they were going to win.

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This major is a gold division of the

site, leading the ground offensive

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towards Mosul. The operation

deliberate Mosul is about to begin

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for these men. But their primary

target is a string of villages on

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the outside of Mosul. But as we set

off, almost read away, the team

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discovered a series of roadside

bombs? Isis have been using

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improvised explicit devices in

unprecedented numbers. -- explosive.

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They've had two years to mind the

entry to the city and the villages

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surrounding it. So even on this

off-road track, we have inched to a

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crawl, as technicians go ahead

slowly to find them and blow them up

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in control these potions. --

controlled explosions. As we begin

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to move forward again, we suddenly

come under attack. GUNFIRE.

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GUNFIRE.

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We have just reached the outskirts

of an Islamic state held village. We

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don't know if there are Isis

fighters inside. It is a small

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village. But the major is getting

all of his men together to move on

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the village. GUNFIRE.

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So as we are moving into the

village, on the radio, we're hearing

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a lot of people shouting white flag.

So we think there are a lot of

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people inside the village as well as

Isis fighters.

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GUNFIRE.

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People may still be trapped inside.

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The threat could come from anywhere:

Car bombs, suicide bombers, and

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wrote minds. -- road. Intelligence

gathering is vital.

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There is a wire.

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The major's men are searching and

securing the area. They are looking

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for any remaining Isis fighters.

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Nothing is taken for granted.

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This sniper leads his team to a

rooftop.

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They need to survey, secure, and

protect the unit, from men like

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themselves on the other side.

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The men have captured a suspected

Islamic state fighter. Is he an

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early ordinary villager turned by

Isis? -- is he an ordinary villager.

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That afternoon, this man's beard is

forced to be removed. The major and

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his men would leave the next

morning, leaving them behind. We

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never found out whose side he was

on, or what happened here. For these

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villages, the war is now over. --

villagers.

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It is day two of the advance. Again.

So we have just arrived in the

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village here that is supposed to be

secure. We are getting ready to set

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up a base and we are being fired

upon by Isis. The soldiers often

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told me that fighting this war is

like fighting ghosts. They never saw

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them, but they always knew they were

there.

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The guys had discovered a tunnel, a

massive, massive tunnel, just ten

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metres away from the makeshift

headquarters they have set up. To

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avoid coalition airstrikes, Isis

fighters went underground.

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IDS constructed a vast network of

elaborate tunnels in which they

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could safely move, Hyde, and wait --

Islamic State. Iraqi soldiers called

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them rats.

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Major Salam sets fire to the

tunnel's entrance. What they're

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doing now is taking tyres, burning

them, and putting them into holes

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inside the tunnel to literally try

and smoke any Islamic State fighters

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left inside. Frontlines taken during

the day can be easily lost at night,

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when IS fighters split back across

them to launch a surprise attack. --

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slip back.

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IS are attacking through the

tunnels.

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Aley has just been shot. Medics are

doing everything they can.

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He doesn't make it.

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So it has been a pretty rough night.

IS launched a surprise attack. The

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response was pretty chaotic. We

joined them as they went in Humvees

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and went towards the lines to fight

ISIS, where they killed 30 IS

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fighters, they said. But 17 men were

killed and there was a big incident

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of friendly fire. Talking to the

guys here has a real element of

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sadness and anger even.

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We are moving out again, pushing

forward to the outskirts of Mosul.

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When IS swept into northern Iraq in

2014, many welcome them as

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liberators from and oppressive Shia

dominated government in Baghdad.

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There's relief amongst some that

they are gone, but off-camera some

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of the people I spoke to were afraid

of government reprisals.

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It's the final push into Mosul, a

city of over 1 million people lies

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ahead. Over two years ago, the

so-called Islamic State the city of

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Mosul and the fears and imaginations

of the world. Today is the day the

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Iraqi government is trying to take

it back. But the Golden Division

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faced an enemy like no other.

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When IS first took the city, the

Iraqi army just fled. Now they are

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back.

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It's the first time that the Iraqi

army has entered Mosul in more than

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two years.

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After nine months of grinding urban

warfare through homes and city

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streets, these men would finally

capture the ruined heart of the

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Islamic State's to factor capital.

-- de facto.

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If there is a memorial to this

brutal conflict, then it is here,

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the world's largest cemetery and

where most of those killed fighting

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the so-called Islamic State are

buried. It's a sprawling monument to

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the generations of men who have been

killed in a nation that has gone

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from war to war.

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