Inside the battle for Ramadi: Iraqi soldier recalls the battle with ISIS

Updated 5:04 PM EDT, Tue May 26, 2015
Security forces defend their headquarters against attacks by Islamic State extremists during sand storm in the eastern part of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, May 14, 2015. Islamic State extremists tend to take advantage of bad weather when they attack Iraqi security forces positions, an Iraqi officer said. (AP Photo)
AP
Security forces defend their headquarters against attacks by Islamic State extremists during sand storm in the eastern part of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, May 14, 2015. Islamic State extremists tend to take advantage of bad weather when they attack Iraqi security forces positions, an Iraqi officer said. (AP Photo)
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A man from Lancashire who encouraged Islamic extremists to wage jihad in the West, including targeting Prince George and injecting poison in to supermarket ice-cream, has been convicted today (31 May).
Husnain Rashid, 32, posted messages online glorifying successful terrorist atrocities committed by others while encouraging and inciting his readers to plan and commit attacks.
One of his posts included a photograph of Prince George, along with the address of his school, a black silhouette of a jihad fighter and the message ìeven the royal family will not be left aloneî.
His common theme was that attacks could be carried out by one individual acting alone. Rashid suggested perpetrators had the option of using poisons, vehicles, weapons, bombs, chemicals or knives. Rashid uploaded terrorist material to an online library he created with the goal of helping others plan an attack.
He also planned to travel to Turkey and Syria with the intention of fighting in Daesh-controlled territories. He contacted individuals he believed to be in Daesh territory, seeking advice on how to reach Syria and how to obtain the required authorisation necessary to join a fighting group.
Rashid provided one individual who had travelled to Syria and was known online as ìRepunzelî, with information about methods of shooting down aircraft and jamming missile systems.
All the offences relate to Rashidís activities online between October 2016 and his arrest in November 2017.
Rashidís trial started on 23 May at Woolwich Crown Court but he changed his plea to guilty on four counts on 31 May. He will be sentenced on 28 June.
Sue Hemming from the CPS said: ìHusnain Rashid is an extremist who not only sought to encourage others to commit attacks on targets in the West but was planning to travel aboard so he could fight himself.
ìHe tried to argue that he had not done anything illegal but with the overwhelming weight of evidence against him he changed his plea to guilty.
ìThe judge will now deci
Greater Manchester Police
A man from Lancashire who encouraged Islamic extremists to wage jihad in the West, including targeting Prince George and injecting poison in to supermarket ice-cream, has been convicted today (31 May). Husnain Rashid, 32, posted messages online glorifying successful terrorist atrocities committed by others while encouraging and inciting his readers to plan and commit attacks. One of his posts included a photograph of Prince George, along with the address of his school, a black silhouette of a jihad fighter and the message ìeven the royal family will not be left aloneî. His common theme was that attacks could be carried out by one individual acting alone. Rashid suggested perpetrators had the option of using poisons, vehicles, weapons, bombs, chemicals or knives. Rashid uploaded terrorist material to an online library he created with the goal of helping others plan an attack. He also planned to travel to Turkey and Syria with the intention of fighting in Daesh-controlled territories. He contacted individuals he believed to be in Daesh territory, seeking advice on how to reach Syria and how to obtain the required authorisation necessary to join a fighting group. Rashid provided one individual who had travelled to Syria and was known online as ìRepunzelî, with information about methods of shooting down aircraft and jamming missile systems. All the offences relate to Rashidís activities online between October 2016 and his arrest in November 2017. Rashidís trial started on 23 May at Woolwich Crown Court but he changed his plea to guilty on four counts on 31 May. He will be sentenced on 28 June. Sue Hemming from the CPS said: ìHusnain Rashid is an extremist who not only sought to encourage others to commit attacks on targets in the West but was planning to travel aboard so he could fight himself. ìHe tried to argue that he had not done anything illegal but with the overwhelming weight of evidence against him he changed his plea to guilty. ìThe judge will now deci
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FILE - In this undated file photo released by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, while riding in Raqqa, Syria. Simultaneous attacks on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa, the de facto IS capital across the border in eastern Syria, would make military sense: They would make it harder for the extremists to move reinforcements and deny them a safe haven. (Militant website via AP, File)
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FILE - In this undated file photo released by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, while riding in Raqqa, Syria. Simultaneous attacks on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa, the de facto IS capital across the border in eastern Syria, would make military sense: They would make it harder for the extremists to move reinforcements and deny them a safe haven. (Militant website via AP, File)
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(FILES) This image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, adressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. 
The Russian army on June 16, 2017 said it hit Islamic State leaders in an airstrike in Syria last month and was seeking to verify whether IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed. In a statement, the army said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute night-time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group's stronghold.
 / AFP PHOTO / AL-FURQAN MEDIA / --/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) This image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, adressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The Russian army on June 16, 2017 said it hit Islamic State leaders in an airstrike in Syria last month and was seeking to verify whether IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed. In a statement, the army said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute night-time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group's stronghold. / AFP PHOTO / AL-FURQAN MEDIA / --/AFP/Getty Images
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Story highlights

Asa'ad al-Yassiri was shot in the battle for Ramadi, which has been overrun by ISIS

The Iraqi soldiers have the will to fight, he says; he blames military leadership for key city's fall

(CNN) —  

Flanked by friends on a busy downtown Baghdad street, Asa’ad al-Yassiri pulls out a tattered piece of paper. It’s his medical release from the Iraqi military, allowing him leave for a bullet wound to his left arm.

His contingent was among the last to withdraw from Ramadi after an ISIS offensive.

He’s disillusioned about how they left the key city – especially the mystery surrounding the order to withdraw and how ISIS prisoners earlier were spared from execution.

In the brutal, seesaw struggle for territory and power between ISIS and central governments in Damascus and Baghdad, Ramadi has become the latest battleground in Iraq.

Since the takeover of the city in Anbar Province earlier this month, close to 55,000 people have fled, the United Nations has said. Most of the displaced persons headed to Baghdad, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) to the east.

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Bulldozers rigged with explosives

ISIS has proved to be dogged foe for the Iraqi military – and that again was the case in the battle in which al-Yassiri found himself.

Al-Yassiri and his contingent were positioned just to the west of the city, in open terrain, using berms for cover. The men, about 140 in along this particular front, were split into smaller units of around two dozen.

ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State, had targeted some of the positions on either side of al-Yassiri’s unit and inside the city.

“There were three roadside bombs that took out two Humvees and killed five of us. Then they came at us with the bulldozers rigged with explosives,” he says.

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The firefight lasted for hours, its final moments captured on a cell phone video. One soldier fires back from behind a berm. Right next to him is a body, that of a comrade killed in battle.

Chaos ensues as more gunfire erupts. Al-Yassiri’s commander radios for air support shouting to his men “Fight, heroes, fight!”

The unit fires back.

Someone shouts a warning: “They are coming from the other side.”

ISIS fighters were advancing on them from four directions. The unit that was supposed to be protecting their back seemed to have disappeared. They were vulnerable and exposed.

Someone screams for more ammunition. Al-Yassiri jumps out of an armored personnel carrier and runs to the soldier.

“The bullet hit my flak jacket at an angle and went into my arm.” He fell to the ground. Another soldier dragged him to safety.

Moments later, another bleak cry of “no ammunition, no ammunition.” It was followed by orders to withdraw.

Al-Yassiri says he had no choice but to obey.

“We had martyrs and wounded, but we said we won’t withdraw, we are used to the blood of martyrs and we have not liberated the land,” he said. “But then the convoy withdrew, so we had to withdraw as well.”

Carter: Iraqis showed ‘no will to fight’ in Ramadi

Al-Yassiri: Blame lies with leadership, not soldiers

Al-Yassiri is bitter, angry and disillusioned. Two weeks before the fall of Ramadi, he says his unit captured an ISIS position, killing six ISIS fighters. Two are seen torched in a video. Another seven were captured, among them four foreigners, admitting they were tortured for information.

“I heard my officer interrogating one of them how they manage to plant IEDs between our watchtowers when they are just 100 meters apart?

“One replied saying, ‘We flash our light toward the tower. We know there are only 28 soldiers, that they are in five hours shift rotations and there is a lack of ammo. If a soldier doesn’t fire at us, we crawl and plant the bomb.’ ”

“We wanted to kill those seven we captured,” he continues. “But we couldn’t because our commander had already informed our headquarters that they had been captured.”

He bristles at the notion that Iraqi soldiers like him don’t have the will to fight. He faults the military leadership and logistical failures that left them without adequate resupply and support.

He believes that the order to withdraw was a betrayal. The Iraqi government has said it launched an investigation to find out what went wrong and how the order was issued, but so far, no one has given a viable explanation.

“I want to quit the army, I would, if I thought I wouldn’t get into trouble,” Al-Yassiri says. “I want to join the militias and go back to the fight.”

Deputy prime minister: Iraqi army conduct in Ramadi ‘surprised all of us’