Battle for Mosul: 2 deadly kilometers separate ISIS and Iraqi troops
IRAQ - It is across the ghostly silence and dense dust of the berms between ISIS’ Mosul and advancing Iraqi special forces that the final chapter of ISIS’ extinction in Iraq will play out.
Yet at dusk on Saturday, the 2 kilometers between the US-trained Golden Division and the medieval world of the so-called caliphate suddenly were aflame with the loathing and terror of the world’s war on ISIS.
Tracer rounds flashed across the horizon; the sparks and thud of countless explosions rocked the tiny village of Bazwaya, split in two by the closing stages of this battle. Ferocious and constant, it came closer and closer to the Iraqi base where we filmed from a rooftop.
By the end of the fearsome exchange -- which fell silent after heavy artillery flew over our heads -- a staggering 14 Iraqi soldiers were dead, some of the worst losses sustained by the unit. When Maj. Hussien Hussien’s Golden Division unit piled in to Bazwaya, they arrived as veterans of the war on ISIS. Having fought in Ramadi and Falluja, Hussien has a series of scars on his right ear from a rocket-propelled grenade attack months earlier.
They are the literal tip of the spear in the global war on the militant group. Despite the risk of being flanked, the men defiantly hold a tiny strip of land jutting perilously into ISIS territory. The Golden Division moved into the town a few days earlier, putting them within 2 or 3 kilometers of the area near the Mosul city limits known as Gogjali. Hussien aggressively takes on ISIS positions, using tanks to pile into the dust at night and fire on areas from which his outposts are harassed. We watch as a series of rounds hit distant buildings marked by flags. In the darkness, we cannot tell if the flags are white to denote civilians, or black to denote those accused of using them as human shields: ISIS. Hussien and his men use videos filmed from sniper scopes and Google maps to target their prey. The coalition has liaisons nearby, but not the volume of technology required to fully map out ISIS across this huge front.