This elite Kurdish unit is hunting down ISIS militants

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A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter walks in front of destroyed vehicles belonging to Islamic State militants in Tel Asqof, northern Iraq.
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Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

In a few months, a major operation will take place at Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul.

After capturing the city in 2014, ISIS forces have since entrenched themselves – effectively blending in amongst the civilian populace. Being one of the last remaining bastions for ISIS militants, Mosul has remained a constant threat not just for coalition forces in the Middle East, but abroad as well.

Backed by a sense of optimism, US and Iraqi forces are preparing for the major assault on the city. But they won’t be alone in the campaign for Mosul’s liberation.

An elite unit of 400 Kurdish Peshmerga have also answered this call and have been preparing themselves for the fight to come. Known as the “Black Devils,” this resilient unit has been claimed to be the first responders against ISIS activity.

Possessing a name that’s reminiscent of other elite forces, Fox News reports that the unit has the battle skills to go along with the unit designation.

After a fierce battle against terrorist forces in the outskirts of Mosul, the unit, along with the assistance of US Navy SEALS, established their headquarters in the ancient Christian town of Tel Asqof, about 8 miles away from ISIS’ epicenter – becoming the area’s Quick Reaction Force (QRF).

In an interview with Fox News, Major Raad, a former interpreter for the US Army explained, “If anyone has a problem and gets attacked, we go there.”

Speaking about how ISIS felt about their effectiveness, Raad continued, “They never have mercy on us. They just kill us.”

Having been attacked nearly every day by ISIS forces with snipers and 120mm mortar rounds, the unit has experienced 7 deaths and 57 casualties during the ongoing campaign. According to Fox News, the unit is comprised of members aged from anywhere between 20 and 55 with many of them being immediate family members and childhood friends.

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Christian volunteers, who have joined the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, take part in a training session by coalition forces in Duhok province, Iraq.
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Ari Jalal/Reuters

Established in 2014 – about the same period when ISIS started making headlines – the Black Devils don’t merely engage in direct attacks. They also specialize in clandestine operations that deal with secrecy and rooting out ISIS sleeper cells.

Listening in on conversations over the airwaves, they have become adept at thwarting ISIS’ plans, such as suicide bombers. After studying their radio transmissions, they’ve been able to crack some of their code. Fox News stated that after ISIS’ code was analyzed, “sending a bird” would mean that an incoming mortar was imminent, and that “visiting the farmer” suggested that an airstrike was inbound.

It remains to be seen whether the campaign to recapture Mosul will be successful. However, the repercussions, even with a favorable outcome for Iraqi forces, will impact the world. Already the United Nations is bracing for the inevitable surge of fleeing refugees from the city of 1.5 million.

“The impact of the Mosul military campaign on civilians will be devastating,” ABC News reports from a statement by the UN humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande. “Mass casualties among civilians are likely and families trying to flee are expected to be at extreme.”