Erbil – Dawood Al Ali
After two weeks of fear, patience and, at times, humor, Iraqi Army sniper Sajad Al-Sakir and Kurdish Peshmerga sniper Ali Rash managed to take out two ISIL snipers in the districts of Bashiqa, north of Mosul, and Qadisiya, in the east.
The story of Sakir and Rash is one that is born on the battlefield, and it sheds light on the struggle faced by Iraqi forces in their fight against ISIL. It also reveals the secret behind the militants’ ability to remain still in confined spaces for weeks.
The Legend of ISIS Snipers
Stories of ISIL snipers being able to control entire blocks, with only small numbers of fighters active on the ground, have being circulating among Iraqis for many months. Video recordings and testimonies from Iraqi troops proved the claims. The stories were always similar – they would target the tyres of the Humvees and then pick-off the soldiers as they evacuated. Sometimes the soldiers would outsmart the snipers and escape the line of fire.
When the Iraqi army moved to take control of an area in the southeast of Ramadi, they were not met by large numbers of ISIL militants but faced a gauntlet of booby-trapped houses and four snipers who were able to control an area of around 200 sq. km.
It took 20 days and several dead comrades until the army could break the siege, take out the snipers and regain control of the area, which liberated Ramadi and brought it under Government control.
Soldiers later revealed details of the snipers’ hideouts; stocks of vitamins, water, juice and drugs were found.
“We captured one of them, and he was clearly under the influence of drugs,” said one of the Lieutenants who took part in the offensive.
The current battle for Mosul has opened many eyes to the ways in which ISIL snipers operate, but has also proven that the among the Iraqi forces there are individuals who can truly stand out and be shining stars in the battle – individuals like the two snipers: Sajad and Ali.
Enjoying his leave back home in the south of the city of Erbil, 34 year-old Ali Rash was having his favorite meal of fish. Ali’s face lights up when he tell his friends about his stories from the battle field:
“Don’t laugh guys … but I felt like the Daesh sniper and I were doing same things,” he says. “We would eat and rest at the same time, then we would be back to tracking each other. I know that because of the times we shoot at one another.”
“I love my wife, but I lost the sniper because of her,” he says. “I saw him 800 metres away. He was heading out of the building with a bucket of water. I knew it was him. I loaded a round and just as I was about to have get him in my sights, the phone rang…It was my wife!
“She told me that she missed me. And needless to say I completely forgot that I was at war.”
He slams the table and laughs.
It was another 10 days before Ali got another chance. This time, no distractions. He got him.
“I don’t know why but I felt he was getting tired,” says Ali. “So I started to bait him by giving him three quick glimpses of me. He made a big mistake and shot several rounds at my location. That made him an easy target, so I shot him down. I was really happy and ran back to the rest of the lads screaming ‘I killed him!’”
As the battle for Mosul continues, more news of dead ISIL snipers is reaching the media, something that should give encouragement about the route to success. It seems that the more snipers are taken out, the greater the upper hand the Iraqi forces have.
Sajad Al-Sakir nails the DIAPER MAN!
Four weeks had passed since the start of Mosul operations and the Counter-Terrorism Service had just arrived in Al-Qadisiya to liberate it from ISIL. Soon enough, officers found that the neighbourhood was laced with land mines and plagued by snipers.
The CTS unit had their own snipers, one of whom was 26-year-old Sajad Al-Sakir. With the help of his brother, we managed to meet with Sajad. He was sitting in a café in Erbil, trying to enjoy his 48-hour leave, discussing his family and asking after his brothers’ sons, Mohamed and Mustafa.
Looking tired and exhausted, Sajad described the importance of snipers to the battle for Mosul.
“When an ISIS sniper is dead, that’s when our officers can really call the press to tell them an area is liberated,” he says. “Ground forces can move into any area after we have taken the snipers down.”
“I was one of four [ISF] snipers who arrived at the area, but I do not know what happened to the others at this point. But it took me nine days to kill the ISIL sniper.”
The day he killed his opponent, he earlier witnessed seven of his comrades die at the ISIL snipers’ hand. Sajad believes that from that day onwards, the balance of power tilted towards the Iraqi forces who took full control of Al-Qadisiya.
There was huge relief when the enemy was taken out. When his body was retrieved, the moment came with its own dark humour.
“We went to where there sniper was stationed and found him in a metal box on top of an Auto repair shop with water and some medicine,” he says. “And he was wearing diapers.”