Headcam Footage Shows What It’s Really Like To Fight For The Islamic State [Video]

VICE News has obtained footage filmed from the headcam of a fighter for the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) — before his death – when his unit engaged Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. The video was released by VICE News on Wednesday.

The Jihadi fighter who shot the video was killed in March in a battle with Kurdish peshmerga troops about 30 miles north of Mosul, a city in northern Iraq occupied by the Islamic State terrorist group since June 2014. VICE News characterized the found footage as showing the reality of life on the battlefield for the terrorist organization, in sharp contrast to Islamic State propaganda.

“Unlike IS propaganda, which often presents sweeping battlefield victories, the video shows chaos, panic, and the fighters retreating. VICE News shows the grim reality of an IS foot soldier.”

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Far from the videos produced by the Islamic State extolling the glory of their fighters, the headcam footage shows stress, confusion, and ultimately defeat. It also highlights the obvious lack of training and preparation on the part of ISIS, who attack a well-defended Kurdish position with improvised “armor,” which appears to be nothing more than trucks protected by steel plates. These ISIS “tanks” protect their occupants from bullets, but clearly do nothing against the anti-tank rockets the Kurdish forces fire back. Soon, their vehicle seems to be immobilized, and the Kurdish peshmerga forces pick off the fighters one by one as they try to flee on foot.

The VICE video, released under the title “Fighting for the Islamic State,” begins by showing ISIS militants giving their farewells to a suicide bomber donning a bomb vest, who gives an impassioned speech about martyrdom to the camera. The profoundly disturbing scene sets the tone for the rest of the video.

The remaining fighters then head to the frontlines in their improvised armored vehicle, with one warning another shooter not to subject their “brothers,” meaning other Islamic State fighters, to friendly fire. Soon the battle begins, and the footage soon shows the fighters in complete disarray. This results in some rather peculiar dialogue.

In one incident, one IS fighter turns to another and urgently says: “Pass me another rocket. A rocket, a rocket.” After a beat, he indicates, “it’s there,” after which his counterpart asks, “the rockets for [firing at] people or armored vehicles?”

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A few moments later, one of them yells for the other to watch out, because the bullet casings are hitting them. The footage continues with sporadic yelling and expressions of frustration about passing different kinds of weapons and explosives between them (at one point the backfire from a shoulder-fired rocket makes a mark on the camera lens), until about the four-and-a-half minute mark when the vehicle is hit by a rocket from the Kurdish peshmerga. The rocket kills the driver and disables the vehicle, forcing the Jihadists to abandon it and retreat on foot. In the ensuing chaos, one of them is shot.

The video is probably a typical scene is the Islamic militant’s war against the region’s Kurds — poorly-trained and poorly-armed militia engaging in limited assaults with small groups of men, perhaps a dozen at most, and preceded by suicide bombers. For the past months, ISIS movements have been mainly defensive; any gains or advances are very temporary and minuscule compared to lost territory. Positions in the war have been essentially fixed for months, and Islamic State offenses are rare.

IS is currently at war with the armed forces of both Iraq and Syria, as well as Kurdish troops and an international coalition led by the United States. The terrorist organization is currently participating in conflicts and insurgencies around the world, including in countries like Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]