Jawad’s body was put in a bag and placed on the patio, by Thamer’s feet. Thamer looked as if he wanted to move away from it but was too tired to get up. More swat-team members had arrived. I spotted Bashar, the policeman who’d saved the video of his brother Salem’s beheading. Blood stained his ammo vest. When Thamer told him that the body bag contained Jawad, Bashar wept silently. A policeman unzipped the bag and removed a silver bracelet from Jawad’s wrist. He handed the bracelet to Bashar, who fastened it on his own wrist.
Another Humvee arrived, and a second dead swat-team member was carried out. The corpse, set down beside Jawad, was coated in gray dust. I recognized him as a young man with whom I’d stayed up talking in the abandoned house the previous night. He’d scrolled through his phone, showing me pictures of his father and brother, both of whom were in an isis prison in Mosul. He feared for his mother, he’d told me, now that she was alone.
Bashar sat down and covered his eyes with his scarf. No one spoke. Mortars, tank cannons, air strikes, small arms, and high-calibre machine guns continued sounding up the road. After a few minutes, Bashar said, “We need to go back.”
In this The New Yorker piece, Luke Mogelson embeds himself with the Nineveh Province swat team. For these tireless special forces, defeating ISIS in Iraq’s most contested city is not just strategic, it’s personal.