For all their tough talk and supposed willingness to die a martyr, it turns out most ISIS fighters actually act like real pathetic cowards when faced with imminent defeat.
The prisoners were taken to a waiting room in groups of four, and were told to stand facing the concrete wall, their noses almost touching it, their hands bound behind their backs.
More than a thousand Islamic State fighters passed through that room this past week after they fled their crumbling Iraqi stronghold of Hawija. Instead of the martyrdom they had boasted was their only acceptable fate, they had voluntarily ended up here in the interrogation center of the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq.
For an extremist group that has made its reputation on its ferociousness, with fighters who would always choose suicide over surrender, the fall of Hawija has been a notable turning point. The group has suffered a string of humiliating defeats in Iraq and Syria, but the number of its shock troops who turned themselves in to Kurdish officials at the center in Dibis was unusually large, more than 1,000 since last Sunday.
The fight for Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, took nine months, and by comparison, relatively few Islamic State fighters surrendered. Tal Afar fell next, and more quickly, in only 11 days. Some 500 fighters surrendered there.
The Iraqi military ousted the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, from Hawija in 15 days, saying it had taken its forces only three days of actual heavy fighting before most of the extremists grabbed their families and ran. According to Kurdish officials, they put up no fight at all, other than planting bombs and booby traps.
Seen up close, the fighters’ pretense of bravado soon disappears.
Their shoes were taken from them, their pockets emptied and their belts discarded, and, as they stood facing the wall, the backs of their dishdashas were stained with the evidence that some of them had not been to a toilet in days.
One of the men smelled so bad that when he was taken into the small interrogation room, those inside were startled. He filled the doorway, appearing even larger than his actual size. The interrogator unbuckled his hip holster, resting his right hand on his pistol. Everyone in the room seemed scared of the man, even though his hands were tied behind his back. His thick black hair was Medusa-wild and shoulder-length, though his handsome face had only a wisp of black stubble on the chin.
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