If you want to catch a terrorist you have to locate him first, and the one place you know for a fact that he will be, is at is his own wedding.
By 2009, insurgents and terrorists in Iraq had gotten fairly wily. For years, the U.S. Special Operations Task Force had been churning through the enemy. I played a small part in that endeavor in 2005, as a Corporal in 3rd Ranger Battalion. We rolled outside the wire and into Mosul almost every night, often times conducting multiple direct action raids during a single period of darkness, before refitting and preparing to do it all over again.
I decided to make the jump to Special Forces, and by 2009 I was the Senior Weapons Sergeant in an ODA in 5th Special Forces Group, and back in my old stomping grounds in Mosul. The problem was that the enemy had learned from their engagements with U.S. Special Operations Forces, and took increasingly sophisticated measures to try to trip us up and avoid our raids. So, when we found out that a big name terrorist was getting married, and where the marriage would be held, a lot of uncertainty was taken out of the equation. This clown-shoes-wearing moron had to be at his own damn wedding.
We rolled into Mosul that afternoon in our Humvees, heading towards the target house. One difference between my time with the Ranger Regiment and my new job was that, as a Special Forces team, we were always partnered with our Iraqi counter-parts, in this case a SWAT team from nearby Tal Afar. With a platoon-sized element of Iraqis, our ODA snaked our vehicles through the flooded back alleys of Mosul.
The city had taken a beating since I was last there four years ago. Somehow Mosul had managed to get even worse, and looked like Beirut back in the 80’s due to the number of collapsed buildings and structures that were covered with bullet pockmarks. Mosul had always been one of the most violent cities in Iraq, and now the enemy was building IED’s bigger and bigger in order to defeat the armor packages that Coalition Forces had put on their vehicles to protect us from the previous, smaller IED’s. Like I said, the enemy was learning and adapting.
After navigating the labyrinth-like streets, we pulled up in front of the objective and unassed the vehicles. I was an Assault Team leader, taking four Iraqi SWAT troops through the front door. It was all over in a flash, fairly anti-climatic, which is the way it should be. If the enemy has time to react to your raid then you’ve lost the element of surprise, and with it, the advantage. Special Forces soldiers like to engage the enemy at a place and time of their choosing, rather than let the enemy dictate the terms of the fight.
The terrorist we were after was in the courtyard with the other men. He was put on the ground, and a Glock 19 pistol was found tucked into the waistband of his suit. The wedding had been completed and now the men would begin drinking, the dowry (a lethargic goat that sat panting in the courtyard for the duration of our stay) would be killed, and a meal cooked.
In the backroom, the women were holding court separately. The bride broke out in tears as we secured the home, and the Iraqi women began screaming at us. As we soon found out, the bride was only sixteen years old.
But it gets better.
We crashed this wedding at the 11th hour. Had we delayed any longer, had we gotten lost down one of the side streets, the terrorist would have consummated the marriage.
That’s right. We crashed the wedding just in time to save a teenage girl’s virginity from this terrorist asshole. No big deal or anything.
This was how our ODA got the name “The Wedding Crashers.”
As one of our ODA members questioned the terrorist, the bad guy said to him through an interpreter that if we knew who he was than we know what he had done…killing people and setting off IEDs in this case. “Just put a bullet in my head now,” he begged. No dice. Under the recently signed Status of Forces agreement, he would be sent directly to an Iraqi prison. After flexcuffing the terrorist, we also decided to haul in his old man as well. His father was involved in his son’s criminal enterprise on some level, but we weren’t sure exactly how.
Back at FOB Sykes in Tal Afar, I sat down with the Iraqi SWAT team Sergeants smoking cigarettes and generally shooting the shit. One them them mentioned to me that the “old man,” the terrorist’s father, had killed his cousin, who had been a police officer. This perked my interest and I asked him what he was talking about.
Back in 2005, Tal Afar had been a straight-up terrorist sanctuary. Every time Ranger platoons went into the city hunting terrorists, we got into some crazy firefights, AC-130 gunships even lending a helping hand by blasting some enemy compounds from overhead. Back during the bad old days of Tal Afar, which was now fairly peaceful in 2009, the father had been issuing fatwahs on people and was known as an accomplished insurgent sniper. He had murdered a lot of people, including policemen, and the citizens of Tal Afar had no sympathy for this guy.
We used to go up and visit the prison in Tal Afar every so often to see what was up. The terrorist we captured in Mosul would always be there, even months later still wearing his wedding suit. The Iraqi warden kept him handcuffed to the bars of his cell in the standing position so he could never sit down. Don’t blame Americans for this sort of mistreatment, we were completely hands-off due to that Status of Forces agreement I mentioned previously. We would have imprisoned him humanely, but what the Iraqis did to each other was their business. You can express disagreement with such behavior to host nation counterparts, but that is about it.
Sadly, the prison warden was himself killed by an al Qaeda suicide bomber who showed up at his front door one night. Took the warden’s entire family with him in the blast except a second cousin. The cousin felt that the attack had been directed against his family by Shias because they were Sunni. To get revenge, he went into the market with an AK-47 and started gunning down Shias in cold blood until the Iraqi military showed up and wasted him.
Iraq, folks. Mission accomplished.
Now how about the terrorist’s father, the old man? He had murdered too many innocent people in Tal Afar to be allowed to live. He was a stone cold psychopath, like a serial killer. I never saw him again after we dropped him off at the prison that first time.
I later heard through the grapevine that the Iraqis disappeared him out in the desert somewhere.
True story, dude.