Mosul (2019) - full transcript

The gritty, thrilling story of local militias and uneasy allies who banded together to liberate Iraq's second-largest city of 1.3 million people from ISIS in 2017. - stop by if you're interested in the nutritional composition of food
Baghdad, October 2016.

The Iraqi capital hums
with a vibrancy and energy

unseen since
the American invasion in 2003.

But 400 kilometers north,
a great storm is brewing.

My name is Ali Maula.

As a journalist

I have interviewed
dozens of Isis defectors

in an attempt
to understand their ideology,

their objectives,

their motivations.

I came away from these meetings
with more questions than answers.

I have finally secured an interview
with a high value detainee

who might be an important
piece of this puzzle.

His name is Nasser, an ISIS recruiter.

But in order to reach
the location where he is being held,

my journey will take me
up the Tigris River

into the heart of ISIS controlled Mosul.

A grand coalition is forming to reclaim
Mosul from the so-called Islamic State.

All of Iraq's diverse
ethnic groups are united,

at least for now, to bring
an end to the savage rule of Daesh.

The term Daesh has become
a popular description

used by those who want to challenge
the group's legitimacy and authority.

Yet, even as these groups
set aside their differences

to focus on the common enemy,

rumors of sectarian conflict
are on the minds of everyone.

That's why the external powers are here,

to have a say in what rises
from the ashes of Mosul.

The only information that leads to Baghdad

is the steady stream
of snuff videos depicting torture,

beheadings and medieval religious fatwas.

Those lucky enough to escape, paint
a bleak picture of life under Sharia rule:

Long beards,

strict dress codes,

and some are execution for just about
anything that smells like indulgence.

Christians are burned alive,

homosexuals are thrown
from rooftops to their death.

Even trade and commerce for the occupied
areas is virtually non-existent.

From my sources in the Iraqi government

I learned an uncomfortable truth

about what had led to
the surprising success of Daesh.

The Iraqi army had given up.

When they fled to Baghdad,
they left behind American weapons,

including tanks and Humvees.

Politics and sectarian differences

had all undermined
the civil defense against Daesh.

Mosul was infested
with Daesh spies and sympathizers.

In the beginning
some saw Daesh as liberators,

defenders of the Sunni minority

who would rebuff the Iranian
influenced government in Baghdad.

But not all Sunni tribes would agree.

Meet Sheikh Saleh, my government minder,

or as he calls himself, The Crocodile.

My ticket into the hot zone
is a warrior poet,

with a name ripped from a fantasy novel.

A Salute to peace,
on behalf of Ali Al Sistani,

The Glorious and Prestigious.

Oh, Son of Generosity and Goodness,

if you desire to bind this nation together

and fulfill the honor of Prophet
Muhammad with the turns of our world,

we are called to return to you.
Oh, beloved Mosul.

We are fighting the disobedient
with everything we have.

I'll tell you a story.

They took two men
to be executed near Alam.

A Shiite and a Qaysi.

The Shiite said he was only a student.

The Qaysi said,
"Execute me, and free him."

They said, "No, you are a dog.

You are an apostate
from God's religion, and he is a refuser!"

So, they executed them both,
and their blood mixed.

They shouted out...

Our brave brothers, can you help us?

Where is your shame?

Where is the father,
and where is the lover?

You fear for your lives

under their weapons.

Shaikh Salih.

- We've reached the base?
- Yes.

Salutations from Sheikh
Saleh Obayd Al Qaysi, Abu Timsah

Vanquisher of Daesh from the map,
and onwards to Syria!

So, are we there yet, Crocodile?

We're close. About 45 minutes.

To Shirqat or Mosul?

We'll arrive in Shirqat.
Then to Qayyarah base.

Beyond the front lines,
we will head into Mosul.

The sheep, they're black from what?

From the smoke.

- The smoke?
- Yes.

What color were they before?

They were white.

White? All of them?

Yes, all of them.
Now they are all black.

Your hands, let me see them.

Black, from the smoke?

Yeah, from the smoke.

- Do you bathe every day?
- Yeah. I'm going right now.

- And then you come back?
- Yeah. I come right back.

Tell us about the smoke. What happened?

It's from when the Daesh fighters came.

They poured 38 barrels of sulphur
into a well and added fuel.

Then they set it on fire,
making all this smoke.

It's destroyed the crops,
destroyed everything.

People can't handle it.

I'm taken to meet the fighter

who embodies this war of contrasting
narratives and contradictions.

Um Hanadi, a female
commander in an army of men,

a Sunni serving in a Shia militia
called Al-Hashd Al-Sha'abi.

We were behind enemy lines,

my husband, Abu Shaima and I.

I used to arrive at 6 a.m.,

cook soup, then return

to the men behind enemy lines

and bring bread and tea.

Why? Because I like cooking? No.

Because they are fighters.

They are patriots.

And also, because they were deprived
of their families.

The enemy had their hometown
of Shirqat surrounded.

Since my husband died seven months ago,

I vowed never to cook again.
It used to be a hobby.

But today,
I will make an exception for you.

I have an immediate family
of daughters and grandchildren,

but my second family
is made up of my soldiers.

I give whatever resources
I can, food, water.

I give her gifts once in a while
because we haven't received salaries.

But when we do, she will get hers.

Rumors grew

that Um Hanadi cooks the heads of Daesh.

This, of course, is not true.

It is true that I've suffered greatly
at the hands of terrorists.

They hurt me.

And from time to time,
I film their corpses

and drag them
around to show victims' families

that the terrorists were defeated.

But to cook them, no.

That's not true. Absolutely not.

I'm confronted
by two different narratives.

In one, Um Hanadi is a matriarch,
cooking chickens too for her soldiers.

In the other, she is boiling
the heads of Daesh fighters.

I certainly fear for my family.

I'm on a wanted list

of terrorists and regimes.

The evidence of this is
that they killed my family.

I have buried nine of them.

All that is left are
the women and children.

As a fighter and commander

in the PMF, I am the only woman.

But there are other female fighters.

A fighter is every mother

who encourages her sons
and sends them to the front lines.

Every woman who celebrates
the victory of our troops

when they liberate an area, is a fighter.

My true love that I lost, was my husband.

That honest true love
can never be replaced.

When I would hear the classic
love stories of Qais and Layla,

Abla and Antar,

Romeo and Juliet,

I did not believe them.

But I started to believe
when I fell in love with Abu Shaima.

He died four kilometers
behind enemy lines in a minefield.

Even though I am one
of Daesh's most wanted,

I strapped my gun
to my side, rifle in hand,

and walked the four kilometers alone

and brought him back.

I wasn't afraid. With God as my witness,

a fighter pilot and Ahmed,
a recruit, was next to his body.

Everyone else had retreated.

I took him from the minefield.

Four of the men from advanced
weaponry tried to join me,

but implored me to wait for a mine expert.

I told them, "I am the expert."

If death joins me with my love,
then I do not fear it.

I walked across.

I covered his body
and dragged him about 50 meters

away from the landmines.
The men came and carried his body back.

I have dedicated my life to our memories,
my sons on the battlefield,

and my family.

However, to love again
or return to life as a housewife...

That's impossible.

My work

is the best thing in my life,

except for an only child

that I can't be separated from.

The love I had for Abu Shaima,
which was without equal,

is followed by my love for this child,

Mohamed. I call him Sunbul.

Our love is for Iraq.

Without our sacrifice,
there will be no liberation.

Nothing happens without sacrifice.

Um Hanadi puts me face to face

with the first Daesh fighters
I've encountered.

These prisoners
appear scared and uncertain.

Not at all how I expected.

Here, we have a Daeshi from Haweejah.

He was one of their prominent fighters.

He fought in the town of Theluia.

His cousin,
nicknamed Abu Hamra, the Emir of Hawija,

who put children and women in cages,

and burned them alive.

Abu Hamra, the Emir of Hawija,

the one who slaughtered
and burned families in cages.

What is his relation to you?

My cousin. But I'm on my own.

Just listen. I ask, then you answer.

The son of Abu Hamra,

may God not have mercy on him.
The one who blew himself up,

- what is his relation to you?
- Huh?

His son! Who blew himself up
with a suicide vest! What is he to you!?

I already told you,
his father is my cousin.

Ah, okay.

Until their time of judgement.

Then, everyone will get what they deserve.

Everyone will get what they deserve.

She finds comfort in that.

I think it begs the question,

is this what the Iraqis deserve?

Daesh and their secret agents,

Daesh and their fighters
haven't greatly harmed us.

Daesh is our enemy, we know them.

On the front lines,
you know who's the enemy.

You see them, face to face.

However, the real enemy are
the Daesh agents planted among us.

The ones who are
within the government, the ministries,

senior security positions
and leaders of tribes,

who abandoned their allegiance,

and surrendered Salahedin and Mosul,

and are promoted
to sit on the seats of power.

The Iraqi people never break.
They're all cut from the same cloth.

I can remember in my life

never having known who is Yazidi,

Sunni, Sabiqi, or Shiite.

I didn't know these things, even though
I am Sunni, and my mother is Shiite.

They tried to play
the sectarian card on me.

Sectarianism is more dangerous

than chemical and nuclear weapons.

Um Hanadi is
a passionate contradiction,

who inspires admiration and uncertainty.

I fear her narrative
is of very little help

as she has gone
beyond the point of no return,

the protagonist
in an epic tragedy, all her own.

Transmit 1-9, transmit.

Sir, while on patrol,

we noticed there were Daesh fighters
climbing by the stone quarry.

Daesh fighters
infiltrating near the river.

There are three of them
wearing black and camouflage gear.

If it's possible, can you send a force?

One member of the alliance stands
out for their fervor and exuberance,

the Al-Hashd Al-Sha'abi,

also known as
the Popular Mobilization Forces.

In some ways the PMF
is the wild card in this conflict.

On paper,
they answer to the Iraqi government.

In reality, Iran calls the shots,

and provides their training and weapons.

Without them,
Iraq would not have the manpower

to take Mosul back from Daesh.

I accept an invitation to meet
with their spokesman, Ahmad Asadi,

who is also a member
of the Iraqi Parliament.

In order to overcome

the ethnic and sectarian differences

that exist in the region

and are exploited by some groups,

We agreed that only Sunni tribal forces

from Mosul itself would enter the city

with the Iraqi Army or the Police.

Neither the PMF nor the Peshmerga
would be allowed to enter the city center.

The participation of the PMF

means the participation of Shiites,

Sunnis, Kurds,
Sabeans, Christians, and Yazidis.

It is a clear
demonstration of national unity.

We are a beacon of unity against

the forces of division,

because we act with everyone's voice.

Our mere presence is a resistance
to division and vengeance.

One of the most important
and difficult jobs that we have

is to preserve local peace
and keep people away

from revenge and counter revenge,

because vengeance will keep the tension

in those areas unsolved.

Anywhere our forces enter,
they are feared by the enemy

and those who plot against
the future of Iraq. They fear our force,

which has now become an official reality.


Such a reliable motivator for mankind.

Yet it would seem that Um Hanadi and Asadi

are not on the same page
when it comes to this issue.

Can I blame her though?

What an unusual alliance has
assembled in the face of Daesh.

I'm impressed with al-Asadi's candor.

He readily admits that
in the Sunni majority region of Mosul,

a Shiite militia is feared
almost as much as Daesh.

So how can trust be established
between such uneasy allies?

Sheikh Saad Halismin, Captain Alaa.

A family man and lawyer
who joined the military

to help take back his country.

His team radiates
confidence and professionalism,

a fact that gives me some
courage for the mission ahead.

Come with me to distribute the teams.

For Captain Alaa,
this turbulent period in Iraq's history

is as much an opportunity
for the country's growth

and self-discovery,
as it is a fight for its survival.

There are countries
where war had such an impact

that it led to revolutionary thinking.

They consider it a lesson.
Then, there are others.

Countries that fell backwards.

Take Japan, after World War II,

after the bombs

that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

They saw advancement and improvements

in the culture,
and revolutionary thinking.

I forget about my own fear,

as I see the businesslike way
these men prepare for battle

like co-workers heading to the office.

Our goal today

is liberating an area of about 500 meters.

This is a dangerous area,
we will be facing the enemy.

There's one main street,

and the rest are very narrow alleys.

According to our intel,
there are suicide bombers,

vehicles rigged with explosives,

and a number of snipers
from the Caucasus and Chechnya.

The area is very dangerous.

I will try to keep you behind our teams,

so you can film from a distance.

It's difficult to have you
move with us in this area.

We want to keep you safe and secure.

We'll follow your instructions
and try to film from behind.

Honestly, with your passion,

I'm a little worried
you'll might run ahead of us.

I wish I could.

Be careful of the sniper.

Yes, Hussain, yes.

The intel is that the snipers
are now inside the house.

We are currently
covering for you. Proceed.

Clear, sir. Roger on the intel. I'm going
to climb up from my position. I have room.

Careful, watch your heads.
Careful. Cover for him, cover for him!

House by house,

each block must be cleared and secured.

Every move forward,
pushes a sniper back.

Your intel. Have you got him? Go. Proceed.

This house.

We are going to jump to that house.
Then we'll advance from there.

Let's go. No, on me!


- On me.
- Do you see any tunnels in there?

As we go closer,
Captain Alaa identifies Daesh's presence

by the intricate network of tunnels
they have built through the neighborhood.

They're shooting at us, now.

on the other side of the city,

the Iraqi army is adapting off-the-shelf
technology to wage war from above.

God bless you, Mohammed.

Consumer drones have been field-
improvised to drop modified grenades.

Just watch for his friends

between those areas.

Keep him suppressed.

Men, you are going
to close in on the snipers.

Keep your movements fast.

Expect explosive devices. Stay alert.

Yes, sir.

Focus. Be careful.

The team turns their focus
to identifying explosives and booby traps.

Be careful of explosives.

Take cover.

We can't climb to that house,
he's secured it.

If we climb up, he's going to see us.

Here's what we are going to do:

Duck down a little.
From that wall there, we jump.

- Just be careful of that house.
- Let's see it.

If there's a path, we'll secure it.


The shots fade into the distance

as another team calls in artillery fire.

Let's go.

We've found a group of them.
There they are, in the house.

Find the opening in the building.
Do you see it?

Captain Mahmood, do you copy?
That one. Yes, that one.

Correct, destroy it!

Allahu Akbar! Repeat fire, repeat fire!

Well done.
The snipers have been killed.

Start moving forward.

Where does it take us?

They killed the sniper.

Clear to advance.

From here, we can cross.

Another day, another neighborhood
freed from the clutches of Daesh.

This talk of separation

of the region and partitioning...

These are the voices of politicians,

not the people of Mosul
or Anbar and Tikrit.

The citizens of Ramadi and Mosul

and nearby areas are tired.

We saw him. We shot at him,
but it wasn't us that killed him.

I saw when you first shot at him.

His group was in the house, behind him.

There were more? I only saw one up there.

Great job, men. May God reward you.

Our goal, above all else, is liberating
the people before capturing the ground.

The terrain is not important.
It can be easily captured,

but my goal is freeing the people.

I could liberate the entire
Old City in one day.

Yet, how many civilian
casualties would that be?


On the road back to base,

I'm curious about what
these children experienced.

They were killing people.

They took me to be executed,

but my dad got me out.

Why did they want to kill you?

I was singing pro-military songs

and that's why they wanted me executed.

- Did you sing Daesh songs too?
- Just military songs.

Which song?

♪ Someone hanged the army flag... ♪

There's one about a high-ranking officer

whom Daesh snipers
- Ali Eid.

What was the song?

The song that starts with "Oh, Protector".

Do you have school?

- No, I don't.
- Why?

I haven't gone to school
since the 4th grade.

Daesh would play tricks on us.

The one named Abu Sabah...
the highest ranking one.

He's still there?

Yeah. There was a house he had condemned,

so he made us light it on fire.

- On the east side of the city?
- Yes.

Did you live near there?

Yeah. After a day or two,
there wasn't much to eat.

The people there are starving.

Are things better now?

Things are getting better. I felt relieved
after seeing the military arrive.

Our families were starving.

I swear if we could gnaw on bricks,

we would find more food.

I swear to God.

There was no food there. Just weapons.

You still have family there?

All my uncles are still there.

Do you talk to them?

There isn't much to say.

Everything is very expensive,
and they can't afford anything.

Are people able to leave?

They can, but they wouldn't
dare leave their cars and homes behind.

They would be taken by Daesh.

They wouldn't.

What about the schools?

What schools?
I just told you there is nothing there!

There are no school, no drinks, no food.

The other day, for Friday prayer,
there were only three people.

- In Hawija?
- Yes. Three people only, in the mosque.

And Sbu Sabah the criminal.

Daesh scared them,
telling them the army was coming

and they'd abuse
their loved ones and kill them.

- All of this was said during the sermon.
- Do the people believe this?

Everyone knows they are liars.

The violence takes a heavy
emotional toll on the psyche,

but perhaps there is some hope
in the resilience of humanity.

From a shell-shocked sniper
named Khadoury,

I learned about the healing
power of service animals

to heal the psychological wounds of war.

Under constant fire,
I am always fighting.

To distract myself,

I surround myself by animals.

I buy them from any
nearby market I can find.

I take the car, and buy sheep
and songbirds. They preoccupy me.

I bought a bulbul.

My mental state was affected
by the death of my colleague Sayed Jafar.

We were on an operation.

He was engaged

and had to leave to attend his wedding.

The day after, he was killed in Fallujah.

These events affected me mentally.

We thank God for motivation
and it's what keeps us going.

This is our fate.

We didn't come here just to die.

We came to be part
of the first responders.

We didn't come to pretend to fight.

If death comes, then it is our time.

There has not come a day where I've cried,

but I've lost too many close friends.
I'm trying to forget.

I try to live a soldier's life
just like I would live as a civilian.

That's enough for me.

The battle to reclaim Mosul
from Daesh is far from won.

But for this recently liberated village,

life is already returning to the streets.

Peace be upon you.

It seems it's not just stores,
but the restaurants are open, too.

Thank God, business is good.

- Does anyone bother you now?
- No, thank God.

Not from Daesh, nor people they know?

No. The federal police
have made life comfortable for us.

We don't often see military here.

We regularly get federal
police and PMF customers.

But we do have people here who,
as an example, their son is a Daeshi.

They remained here,
just like any other citizen.

Their son is responsible
for his own actions,

and nobody holds the father
or the brother accountable.

We have many examples of people here

who are in a similar situation,
where a brother is a Daeshi

and he remains a regular citizen.

Thank you, it's okay, I'll pay.

Thank you very much.

The majority are Shiite,

you have married
a Shiite woman and you mother is...

After a hard-fought day,
Captain Alaa's men

demonstrate the camaraderie
of a tight-knit military unit.

But even as they sit around
the campfire as one family,

the demons of war
still shadow their thoughts.

The security forces
found an older man crying,

tears streaming down his face.

The security forces
asked him what had happened

that caused him to weep so deeply.

After some time,

he told them that he decided
to run from Daesh at night.

He took his wife and two boys,

ages two and four years old,

and they ran outside into the street.

A Daesh sniper spotted them

and fired at the man's wife,

killing her instantly.

The man quickly carried his wife

and kids back to their garden
where he buried her,

The kids were screaming and crying,
clearly in no shape to escape that night.

He decided

to give them sleeping pills.

After they had fallen asleep,

he put a child

on each shoulder.

Again, another sniper
was able to spot him and fired,

killing the child

on his right shoulder.

The man ran back to the garden

and set his children down

and he began to dig another grave,

shaking and traumatized
as the other remained asleep.

After burying his child,
he again tried to escape.

The next morning,
he reached the security forces.

After they questioned him,

they found he had buried
his uninjured sleeping child

next to his mother
and escaped with his dead child.

Very painful story.

Just one of many stories.

Another day dawns
on the road to Mosul.

Reports from the frontlines
are that progress is slow.

There is no tolerance
for civilian casualties,

not when the fragile
coalition hangs in the balance.

The soldiers who have been
in the trenches the longest against Daesh,

have been the Kurdish Peshmerga,

which means those who face death.

The commander is Arif Tayfur,

a former deputy speaker
of the Iraqi parliament.

Due to our shared struggles,

the Shiites and us
were in the same position.

There were crimes
against Kurdistan and the South,

like the Anfal campaign

and the chemical attacks.

We are partners with our Shia brothers.

At the same time,

we have things in common with the Sunnis

because we have
geographical borderlines with them,

They are Sunnis and we are also Sunnis.

There are old relationships
between us and the people of Mosul.

There are trade relationships
and inter-marriages with them.

Our relationships with them are good,

despite the fact
that they harmed us a lot.

We've suffered a lot from them.

They hit us with chemical weapons,
they organized

Anfal Campaigns against us.
This pushed us closer to the Shiites.

Together we were able to defeat
Daesh and liberate many areas.

This unity, common understanding,

and coordination led to those victories.

Despite his friendly presentation,

I'm beginning to sense
further cracks in the coalition.

The Sheikh senses my skepticism
and confronts it head on.

They dream of more sectarianism.

They dream of Iraq falling apart.

The Kurds want their own country,

but this is also a false hope.

Turkey has Kurds.

Syria has Kurds. Iran has Kurds.

These groups took advantage
of the Kurds in Iraq.

The Turks want to take them from us.

These Turks are greedy for Iraqi land.

The Ottoman Horde wants to
fulfill its goal and force this on Iraqis.

This will not happen.

Not for their president, Erdogan

or anyone.

They seek unrest in Mosul.

They have convinced Mosul

that it is Turkish land.

This was true a long time ago.

For it to happen again

is a pipe dream.

If they try to get
so much as an inch from Iraq,

the tribes would stand up to Erdogan.

Those dishonorable cowards
that sold Mosul to Daesh

will learn their lesson by electrocution.

We have seen nothing
but good intentions from Iran.

They wanted to help the militias,

so they provided us
weapons and assistance.

What has Turkey

done for us?

They are like a horde,

greedy for our land. My oil, and your oil.

Even our water.

What negative effect
has Iran had on us? None.

I'm paying the price.

The Sunnis pay the price.
The Shiites pay with blood.

most people just sit around and watch.

The upscale residents
of some areas say this and that

about Iran.

Get back to work and be quiet.

But these are the people we elected.

But now they sit in their fancy hotels

with Turkish prayer beads sipping whiskey

while our children are killed

and slaughtered.

In Hawija and Mosul.

These are the values of the upper class.

They are cowards, not patriots.

Like the other
government talking heads,

he assures me that the liberation of Mosul
will bring forth a historic alliance

of the perpetually
feuding peoples of Iraq,

all coming together to fight Daesh.

It is clear what side the Sheikh is on.

His true opinions seem to contradict
the supposed unity of the coalition.

The fall of Mosul
to Daesh was a nightmare,

a black dream descending upon Iraq.

Their military victory was astonishing,

but the political context was
almost impossible to comprehend.

Daesh promised
the people of Mosul more jobs,

better public services
and their version of Islamic justice.

At the Great Mosque of al-Nuri,

Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi
ascended the minaret in triumph.

He told his followers
that the caliphate had arrived in Mosul.

I arrive at a Christian town

where fires are still burning.

You are Peter,

and on this rock I build my church,
and the gates of hell

shall not be strengthened against it.

Forgive us our sins,

as we also have forgiven
those who have sinned against us.

And leads us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

You can see
the destruction in front of you.

We saw towns like Hamdania,
Bartella and Karmless

they are completely demolished.

The Christian areas
are the most afflicted.

Daesh leaves nothing standing.

No holy places, no place for prayer.
They left nothing for us.

Even the homes are burnt down.

Captain Bhoutros
is a Christian militia officer

who guides us through what's left
of his once cherished place of worship.

See, they've even destroyed the date.

The church was built in 1907.

They've even dug tunnels, like rats.

What can I say? This hole is
about 10 to 11 meters deep.

They used to sleep in this room?

Yes, they slept in this room.

No longer, thanks to our brave forces.

I presume these are their names?

These are the names of the rats.

So, we are sure they are all...


No. They were killed. Like dogs.

This is their destructive nature.
One can't imagine humans would do this.

Seeing their faith
should have renewed my own,

but it did the opposite.

How is forgiveness so easy?

It's hard to believe the attacks
on these victims are not personal.

And what of those who cannot return home?

Along the river bank,

a familiar sight.

Crowds of refugees waving
white flags, waiting to be rescued.

Among them could be
Daesh spies and saboteurs.

Colonel Nedhal,

head of refugee operations,

explains the danger
that hides in plain sight.

The concern

is that they are wearing suicide belts.

They must take
their clothes off completely,

and then come one by one.

Just like the army checkpoints,
so that we can identify them.

If someone not part of their group sneaks
in, they'll be able to identify them.

You have just crossed into the west bank,

which is enemy territory.

We are on our way

to retrieve the displaced
families after they are searched.

Stay there, stay there.

Raise your hands higher.
Raise them higher!

Search them, men!
You there, stay there, ladies.

Stay where you are.
Stay there. Search them.

Stand in a line, girls.
Stand there in a line.

You can throw away your burqa.
No more burqas after today!

Thank God for your safety, again.

You're welcome.

Whomever doesn't have relatives to go to,

I can be your relative.
You can come home with me.

Welcome, welcome.

Crossing the river is
only the first step to salvation.

Daesh agents are
often hidden among refugees,

but still there is
relief on the faces of some.

Welcome to the city of Shirqat.

The city of the "White" battle,

where multiple official
forces worked together.

May it be an example for future
battles for the liberation of Mosul.

You have tribal forces
working with you?

Yes, we have the 51st
tribal forces working with us,

area by area.

The rumors in the media,

about disagreements
between the Army and the people...

Are they true or false?


These are all coming from lying
sources targeting the Iraqi people.

They want to create
disorder that doesn't exist.

Since we've arrived in Shirqat,
the Army, the PMF,

and the tribes have been
working hand in hand,

step by step.

Where are the battles now?

The fighting now may
seem slow to the world,

however, the pace is,
for the sake of accuracy,

preserving our fighters,
and protection of the local civilians.

There is no animosity from any group?

No animosity from any group.

And no political involvement?


The people have had
their fill of politics and media.

So, the people of Mosul are not

to fear Kurdish or tribal involvement,

that might lead to conflicts?

The people have witnessed and learned.

All of these politics are foreign ploys,

not from the local government, external.

As a citizen of Mosul,

do you presume sectarianism has ended?

It has ended, and it has been buried.
Forever, God willing.

Ended and buried, there it is again.

But how can that be
when the enemy could be anyone?

I follow the colonel
to the next part of his day,

refugee camp.

When the refugees arrive,

after the oppression, hunger,

and thirst for life under Daesh,

out of joy they throw off their burqas.

What is the reaction
of the women, after arriving?

They can't believe it. They can't
believe they escaped from Daesh.

What did Daesh do to them there?

Oppression and rape.

It was as if they were imprisoned,

without judgement or crime.

They would come and tell us

about the Emirs doing
whatever they wanted to the people.

They were in charge of the area,

and everyone in it.

Around the camp,

I encounter scores of women and children,

but where are the men?

All men of fighting age are
detained for questioning

by the Iraqi Security Services,

to root out any Daesh agents
hiding amongst them.

I listen to the stories of countless
civilians like Abdullah and his father.

I'm curious about the lives
they led under Daesh rule.

I was involved in teaching and politics.

I was a candidate.

I was in danger of being executed

or murdered at any moment.

I couldn't sleep in my own house.

- Because of Daesh?
- Because of Daesh, and their gangs.

They were searching for me.
They arrested and executed my colleagues.

Then, in the beginning of 2015,

I escaped.

This entire time

I had no communication with my family.

I didn't know what was going on,

or what had happened to them.

Dead or alive.

Hungry or starving.

All calls and network
access were forbidden.

Daesh forces came

and took some of them as human shields.

They then began
firing at the security forces,

to provoke return fire

to have the women and children killed.

So that they create
a delusion for the people,

using their lying media,

that the security forces
intended to kill everyone.

What did Daesh do to you, back there?

- Over there?
- Yes, over there.

They would shoot at us. They would stand
in the middle of the village,

and shoot at us, to let us believe
it was the army killing us.

- You can't clean up your beard.
- It had to be full and long?

Yes. If it was cut, or trimmed,
you would be fined and whipped.

What were guys expected to do?

Before the call to prayer,
we had to be in the mosque.

If they didn't find you in the mosque,
they would kill you.

Thank God for your safety

and for the safety of your cousins,
whom you haven't seen in two years.

Have a car take them to where they need.

Their story was
heartbreaking, but was it true?

I have begun to doubt my instincts
in a world where nothing is as it seems.

There wasn't much time
to ponder the question

as Abdullah and his son were
heading south to relative safety.

We are headed north, always north.

As we draw closer to the beast,

I prepare for my interview
with the high value target, Nasser.

From what little I know about him,

he is said to understand and embrace
the violent ideology on a visceral level.

Nevertheless, I wasn't afraid,

suspecting I'd find
a masked and betrayed man

whose beliefs were
already crumbling in confinement.

The role assigned to me
was preaching and guidance.

Young men, at times,

come in need of convincing.

This persuasion is done
through a number of methods.

They're either here
for a sexual, financial,

intellectual, or humanitarian goal.

They're a person who
has come to change his life.

If you are convinced

of the Islamic State's ideas,

what are the positive points
that convinced you?

The basis of Islamic doctrine rests

on the Prophetic Sunnah.

Directing what is right,
and forbidding what is wrong.

The social contract that guarantees

every person the right to live.

If there had been
an Islamic system in Iraq,

you wouldn't see
homeless people on the street.

There is killing,

sectarianism, and quotas.

Where is the Islamic State?

And the alternative?

The alternative is
the Islamic State. The Caliphate.

I'm not making this up.

The Sunnah is being implemented as it is.

What is the problem
with amputating the hand of a burglar?

God doesn't seek vengeance on people.

Only deterrence. So, what's the problem?

There are laws already in place.

There are courts that punish burglars,

punish fornicators, and punish criminals.

Where is the lack of law that you intended
to implement replacements for?

What law? If the burglar
pays restitution, he is released.

The law of God or of the people?

If God made the punishment for stealing,
amputation of a hand,

what is your alternative?
One year or two years in prison?

Times have changed.

What times?

Quran is the same
and the Sunna is still applied.

So, what times?
Times of corruption and bribery?

You are Iraqi, right?


Do you belong to Iraq?

Of course.

The evidence is that the Islamic
State's first project is in Iraq.

And those that were killed
in Camp Speicher, are they Iraqis?

Those that were killed in Mosul?

Do you not feel
the pain of the Iraqis, Nasser?

I can sense that you have
some negative points

directed towards what is
referred to as the Islamic State.

They aren't negative points.

Humans are susceptible to mistakes.

No further comment.

What do you presume is your future?

Nasser Issa is not just a body in a place,

but a soul and an ideology.

If I were to die now,

there are a number of young men
that have learned the ideology

that I have planted
for the future of Islamic thought.

Now is not the time for philosophy.

The final push into the heart
of Mosul will commence tonight.

I'm behind you,

I can see, I don't need light. Go ahead.

What's the next step, Sheikh?

Kill the lights.

I can't see a thing.

Can you see anything?

I can't see a thing.

Our current position

is one of the most important points
along the enemy's front lines.

This is the Tigris river.
Daesh controls all of the Tigris river.

They have weapons that can reach us?


The next day we pushed to the city
center with the golden division,

Iraq's elite counterterrorism force.

When the bullets started to fly,

I was happy to be under their protection.

We are crossing the men.

Daesh barricades turned
the way forward into a death trap.

The team brings in
heavy machinery to clear a path.

Do you see me?

I see you.

Tell him he must move in,

so they can't get behind us.

First house, second house, third house.

On my signal. There's some
room at your five o'clock position.

Can you take the bulldozer's position?

Where exactly, right or left?

In your direction,

the first and second
houses that are orange and yellow?

Sir, on your right, up to the third house.

Do you copy?

After the second one,
go to the third in that line.

Clear, we got it.

Downstairs a casualty
is brought inside.

Listen to me, call the Hummer quickly.

He's in very critical condition.

Clear his airway.

Where are the bandages?

I don't have any bandages.

Give me your shemagh! Grab that!

Grab that! Give it to me!

Bring the Hummer, we have a casualty.

He is dying.

You need to move the soldier immediately.

I told you Yusuf was to meet us inside!
Where is our air strike?

We will remain here, have him come to us.

The Humvee arrives,
but not fast enough.

Adjust his feet.

Just give him to me.

You can't take him outside!

I can! Just grab his hand,

and put his other foot over.
Who told you not to cross?

Captain Muayid and Lieutenant Murtada.
We had no other choice.

They came up behind us.

We would have had to move three blocks.

So, we didn't cross,
and held our position.

I was coming back to tell him,
then he got hit.

I would have never let you move an inch.

We went back to base, not the other place.

I told you before,

when we move forward, never fall back!

Hold your position and make it home.

This entire side is not cleared.

Come on, Alawi.

You are not going
to carry him! Are you crazy?

There is heavy fire outside!

Still in safe mode.

For some the war is over
before they even fire a single bullet.

The Humvee is right outside,
but we're pinned down.

Send him, send him, send him.

No, don't go anywhere right now.
There's too much heavy fire.

Take the grenade and throw it.

There's too much heavy fire, man.

Let's go, one of you get in first.

Come on, come here!

Go, crouch
until you reach the vehicle.

Let's move, guys. Move, move, move!

Intel indicates that Daesh fighters
are using human shields.

Ready for anything,
the team pushes into the house.

Don't worry.

Thank God, you're all safe.

Mother, everything is alright,

nothing bad is going to happen.
Don't be afraid of us.

You don't need to be afraid anymore.
We are your children, too.

Take everyone inside and stay safe.

Moments later a Daesh
fighter is spotted from the window.

You see him, Ali?

There he is! Near the garden!
That's the guy. There's only one.

There's two of them.
One of them jumped into the house.

- Was he killed?
- Yes.

- Is there a dead body?
- Should be there in that garden.

Shoot single shots. Okay.

The team follows a trail of blood
left by an injured Daesh fighter.

We followed through
a network of tunnels

to a ravaged home.

As the soldiers push inside,

we expect to find our wounded prey.

They can't get inside with us.

There are tunnels down there, right?

Yes, there are tunnels.

From this direction.

Until the end of the road.

Towards the school.

The street they've burrowed through.
Over by Afar park.

How were you injured?

A grenade. They threw it at him.
Abu Muhammed, who threw it at you?

They were trying to get me to get out
of the house. From that house there.

When they retreat from the army,
they throw grenades everywhere.

There's nothing to worry about.

Take care of the children.
Don't be afraid. We love you.

Are there more families up ahead?

All families. This whole street.

There are rockets here... These two guys
came, one of them said he was from Rawa.

"What do you want from here?"

He said, "I'm bringing the launcher."

He came with about five more
and their leader.

One is called Abu Aisha,
the other is Abu Junaid.

He was ordered to go fire at the Hummer.

When he came down
he asked him, "Did you hit it?"

He said, "No, they retreated."

He then said he would exchange
the weapon and return.

After a little while,
they threw grenades into our house.

Then they scattered and retreated.

One of them got hit in the face
after my brother was injured,

while he was standing in that room.

Was the civilian telling the truth?

Or was he involved in today's event?

I am beginning to realize
there is no right answer

or at least no one right answer,

only the truth as it can be
perceived in the moment.

- Ready?
- Ready.

In July 2017,

the big guns
of the Iraqi army fall silent.

After 10 months of combat,

the last Daesh stronghold
in the old city of west Mosul,

is captured by Iraqi forces.

But there are no cheering crowds
to greet the liberators,

only empty streets,

and utter devastation.

The price of victory has been high,

and the people of Iraq will be paying
the price for generations to come.

The human cost is still being calculated.

As the suffering continues
for wounded soldiers,

civilians caught in the crossfire,

and displaced families whose homes
have been ground into dust.

And then there is the moral cost.

Iraqis will need to reconcile
the need for justice,

against the desire for vengeance.

Reports emerge
about horrific human rights,

abuses committed
against suspected Daesh fighters.

Mosul is an unhealed wound
on the psyche of a nation.

Many of Mosul's historic
landmarks are gone forever,

including the Great Mosque of al-Nuri.

It had withstood the wrath of north
invaders during its 850-year history,

until Daesh leveled it in June 2017.

This is all that remains
of the iconic leaning Minaret.

Iraqis are returning
to the old city of Mosul

to see what is left of their heritage.

People like Captain Alaa,

who has come
to the Mosul historical museum

to observe the defensive fortifications
that Daesh combat engineers have erected.

This also was shown
in one of Daesh releases.

They destroyed the antiquities.

They looted almost everything,

destroyed or burned the rest
of the museum's holdings.

Little remains here
except glimpses of past greatness

and the echoes of time.

There is a saying that, "Those who forget
their history are condemned to repeat it."

But what about those who destroy
their own history?

As I return to Baghdad,

it struck me that the real question for
Iraq, is not the question of a country,

but of its people.

Nasser's comment continues to haunt me.

Nasser Issa is not just
a body in a place,

but a soul and ideology.

If I were to die now,

there are a number of young men
that have learned the ideology

I have planted,
for the future of Islamic thought.

I fear it will take
more than razor wire

and high prison walls
to contain this ideology.

Thinking back to those characters
I've met along the way,

The Crocodile, Um Hanadi, Captain Alaa,

I wonder what life will be like for them,

if and when the peace takes hold.

Will they be able to adapt
to civilian roles in a unified country?

Or will they be caught up
as the protagonists

of the next chapter
of this recurring tragedy?

I hope they find some kind of peace.

I hope I find it too.