I’m sure this is not the report that CNN’s Arwa Damon and Brice Laine expected to file when they headed into Mosul with Iraq soldiers. After their convoy of vehicles was hit with grenades, car bombs and RPG attacks they had to take shelter inside a family’s home. Most of the solders they were with were wounded but had to keep fighting because ISIS kept attacking. The soldiers they were with called repeatedly for backup but none came. They discovered later that ISIS fighters were filming their hideout from directly across the street. After being stranded and facing the threat of being overrun for nearly 24-hours, backup finally arrived and the reporters were evacuated with the wounded.
Damon’s account of the hour-by-hour experience for CNN reads more like a blunt journal than a news story but that tone of unfiltered immediacy makes it all the more powerful:
A massive flash of orange.
A massive explosion just as we were stopped.
My ears are ringing.
The door to the vehicle couldn’t come up fast enough.
Everyone is coughing from the dust and dirt kicked up by the blast.
Out the back window I saw a family running, a family with kids.
It was a suicide car bomber, the soldiers said.
I can’t stop thinking about that family. And all the others.
A few entries later:
Holy s**t. That is the craziest crap I have seen. A white car just went flying down the side street in front of us. Right between the battalion. Then a rocket-propelled grenade came flying in.
They keep calling for air power.
This fight is nothing like that of the outskirts. This is in the side streets against an enemy that knows them and rules the rooftops. The rooftops of homes that have civilians inside.
“There is heavy incoming, heavy incoming,” the captain calls on the radio. “We need air power now! We are getting hit from all sides.”
The whole thing is very much worth a read but even better is this 10-minute long video that allows you to experience some of the attacks as they happened. Kudos to Damon and Laine for this report that brings home just how difficult the fight to defeat ISIS in Mosul is going to be.