Iraqi forces have been closing in on the Old City in west Mosul for months, but the terrain combined with a large civilian population has made for an extremely difficult fight. / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Navy SEAL Ephraim Mattos shared his story of the “Battle for Mosul” with Fox News Monday, saying that dozens of innocent women and children were brutally killed by ISIS.
Mattos describes his experience in Mosul in an interview with Fox, where he recalls seeing dozens of deceased young children, pregnant mothers and entire families murdered by the radical Islamic terrorist group. While stationed in Iraq, Mattos himself was almost killed by gunfire.
Just days after officially retiring from the military in early April, Mattos joined a global humanitarian group called the Free Burma Rangers and agreed to leave for Iraq to assist as a medic and aid volunteer. While assisting Iraq’s 9th Armored Division with the Free Burma Rangers May 4, they received orders to assault Mosul. This attack is when Mattos says “the insane bloodshed” started.
“ISIS was just gunning down civilians in the middle of the night as they ran — women and children,” Mattos said. “We were trying to treat as many people as we could, but bodies were all over the streets. An entire family lay dead right there, an old man, young parents and their baby between them.”
“We saw two young girls, about 11 or 12, lying down,” he added. “One had been shot dead in the back, the other in the head — her face was totally gone. Where her face used to be was just a big black hole.”
The experienced veteran continued speaking about his time volunteering in Mosul, describing in detail the disturbing aftermath of the damage and pain ISIS had created.
“We started to see children alive, buried underneath the dead. They were in shock. These little kids would get up and poke the bodies of their parents, confused, trying to wake them up from their sleep,” Mattos said. “One little boy, no older than 6 or 7, laid down next to what appeared to be his sister. He covered her in a scarf to shield her from the hot sun. It was absolutely heartbreaking. We all knew then we had to do something to get those kids out.”
Iraqi army associates quickly called for U.S. aircraft to drop some sort of smokescreen to provide cover, due to the fact they were around 200 yards from an ISIS hospital being used as a headquarters for terrorists.
“I was terrified. I had to will myself to go forward,” Mattos said. “But I had decided that I was prepared to die to get that little girl out of there … What ISIS was doing was just unreal. How do you shoot a little girl in the back of the head?”
According to Mattos, there were around 100 fighters and over a dozen snipers in that general area at the time, concealed on rooftops and in the dark hollow rooms of mortar-gashed houses. Mattos was shot in the calf while trying to get cover behind a vehicle, was taken to the Kurdish capital of Erbil for medical attention and spent over two weeks in the hospital.
“As a SEAL, we are taught that our job is to take care of ourselves until the battle is over,” Mattos said. He arrived home to Wisconsin at the end of June to continue healing.
US Coalition Bombs ISIS 25 Times To Ring In Independence Day
An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 391st Fighter Squadron drops a Guided Bomb Unit-28 during a Combat Hammer mission at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Twelve planes, eighteen pilots, and thirty- crews from the 391st FS travelled down to Hill AFB to participate in the three week weapons system evaluation. Combat Hammer is an air-to-ground Weapons System Evaluation Program maintained by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron. Combat Hammer marked the first of three weeks of evaluation at Hill AFB by the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group. (Courtesy photo.)
The U.S. led anti-Islamic State coalition bombed the terrorist group 25 times July 3, Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) said in a statement Tuesday.
The 25 strikes consisted of “85 engagements” against the terrorist group and spanned Iraq and Syria. The strikes come amid two large scale U.S. backed pushes in both countries.
The U.S. is currently in the last phase of supporting the Iraqi Security Force’s military campaign to retake the formerly ISIS held city of Mosul. ISIS controlled the city uncontested for nearly two years and has put up a brutal defense since U.S. backed operations began in October 2016. The group routinely uses civilian human shields and child suicide bombers.
ISIS is currently constrained to two separate enclaves within Mosul, OIR spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon told reporters Thursday. The enclaves are separated from each other by the Iraqi Security Forces and are currently under assault. The Iraqi Security Forces will “imminently” announce the city’s liberation, Dillon said.
OIR is also supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the push against ISIS’s capital of Raqqa. The SDF are a coalition of largely Kurdish forces on the ground in Syria who focus on fighting the terrorist group. The SDF breached the city of Raqqa for the first time Monday by “opening two small gaps in the Rafiqah Wall that surrounds the Old City,” OIR announced Tuesday.
“ISIS fighters were using the historic wall as a fighting position and planted mines and improvised explosive devices at several of the breaks in the wall. SDF fighters would have been channeled through these locations and were extremely vulnerable as they were targeted with vehicle-borne IEDs and indirect fire as well as direct fire from heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and snipers as they tried to breach the Old City,” OIR continued.
US-Backed Forces Breach Center Of ISIS ‘Capital’ In Syria
Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) run across a street in Raqqa, Syria July 3, 2017. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)
U.S. backed-Syrian fighters have reached the heart of the city of Raqqa, the Pentagon announced Tuesday, a significant step in the campaign to drive ISIS from its principal stronghold in Syria.
Department of Defense officials said that targeted airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition blasted two holes in the wall surrounding Raqqa’s Old City, allowing Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to penetrate the most heavily fortified portion of the ISIS-held city. The precision air support helped SDF fighters breach the Old City while avoiding potentially deadly, pre-positioned explosives that ISIS had placed along the wall.
“ISIS fighters were using the historic wall as a fighting position and planted mines and improvised explosive devices at several of the breaks in the wall,” coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said. “SDF fighters would have been channeled through these locations and were extremely vulnerable as they were targeted with vehicle-borne IEDs … as they tried to breach the Old City.”
Purging Raqqa of its remaining ISIS fighters would be a major milestone in the coalition’s fight to defeat the terror group in Syria. Although several ISIS leaders once based in Raqqa have fled to other parts of Syria, the U.S.-led coalition estimates that about 2,500 hard-core fighters are still entrenched in the Old City, reports the Associated Press.
The battle for Raqqa began in June when the Kurdish-led SDF assaulted the city, following a campaign to secure the surrounding countryside. U.S.-backed fighters completely surrounded Raqqa Sunday, after crossing the Euphrates River on the southern edge of the city.
As the fighting in Raqqa reaches a decisive stage, Pentagon officials say that the priority for the U.S-led coalition is to achieve a quick victory while protecting the estimated 100,000 civilians still trapped in the Old City by the fighting.
“The most humane way to save the people of Raqqa is to swiftly and decisively defeat ISIS, who have terrorized the people of Raqqa for more than three years,” Col. Dillon said. “Only this way can the people of Raqqa be saved and city return to peace.”
The loss of Raqqa would be a major blow for ISIS, which has controlled the northern Syrian city since 2014. The group is also on the verge of losing Mosul, its base in Iraq, as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces make a final push to take back the city.