Iraqi Lt. Yasser Al-Aboudi was a skilled, courageous and ethical Soldier in the battles to defeat Daesh
UNIPATH STAFF | Photos by Iraqi CTS Media Office
Stories of heroism continue to flow from Mesopotamia. The heroes of the Iraqi Armed Forces have put their lives on the line to expel the terrorist gangs and their deviant ideology out of this land where all sects have long co-existed in peace. The story of the heroic martyr Lt. Yasser Al-Aboudi, a member of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), would move any reader. Such stories show that, through the generations, the land of Iraq continues to produce great men. We spoke to his comrade in arms, to his commanding officer and to his family about his childhood, dreams and bravery. We met his father first:
My dear son and friend Yasser was born in January 1991, at the peak of the First Gulf War. He was the third of six children, two sons and four daughters. The years passed and Yasser had grown. I fondly remember when he stood beside me as I welcomed the guests to his wedding reception. He was a clever child and excelled at all stages of his education. He was a very moral person and respectful even when joking with his friends. One of his high school teachers, Muhammad Hadi, once told me that he had never laughed so much with a student as he did with Yasser, because he had an exceptional sense of humor, and his laughing was discrete. He was very self-reliant from a young age. He used to work through middle school, high school and university to earn his own spending money. His mother and I smiled when he offered to help us with household expenses. We could see determination in his eyes. He was not like other children. He cared mostly about studying and work. He used to tell me, “I will carry your burden because you have spent your youth caring for us.”
As Yasser’s father told us his memories, his face became wracked with sorrow:
“His childhood dream was to become an officer in the special forces, widely known and respected among Iraqis. At 14, Yasser would see the rows of special forces Soldiers in their black uniforms in the streets of Baghdad, arresting suspected terrorists or searching cars in dangerous areas. When Yasser saw them, he felt proud and wanted to be one of them. The chance came when he was admitted to the Fourth Military College for the counterterrorism course. He graduated and was ranked 19th out of about 235 students.”
After he had graduated from the Counter-Terrorism Academy, he was assigned to the Maysan Counterterrorism Battalion’s legal advisory team. However, Yasser had not joined Counter-Terrorism to remain in an office in the South while war raged in the West and the North. He dreamed of going to the battlefield. This dream came true, and he was assigned to join his friends in Anbar.
“I first met Yasser in April 2014 when we enrolled in the Fourth Military College in Nasiriyah. We trained in the third platoon with him. Our friendship began when we were students, and I will never forget our time there together. The two of us lived close to each other in the capital, Baghdad. We became friends from the first day. His friends liked him so much, and he was always smiling and cracking jokes.
“Yasser was exceptionally devoted to military life and was very brave. He was not afraid of dangerous training exercises like rappelling out of helicopters or climbing high towers. He was the first to finish the exercises and loved to train and learn. He was appointed corporal in the platoon because he excelled at his duties, learned quickly and was a natural leader.
“After we graduated and joined the selection course for Counter-Terrorism, chance brought us together for a second time. Despite the hardships and intensity of training at the Counter-Terrorism Academy, Yasser excelled and was one of the best students, especially at shooting. He was a sharpshooter and was determined to finish the course. He even encouraged students who collapsed and decided to leave the course. He knew, deep down, that special forces operations required exceptionally strong men.”
The Counter-Terrorism Service has an excellent tradition of assigning graduates through a lottery carried out under the supervision of the head of the Counter-Terrorism Service. Yasser received his assignment to the Maysan Battalion.
Lt. Youssef continued: “We were indescribably proud when we knew that we were assigned together to the Maysan Battalion. Yasser was assigned to the forward headquarters of the regiment in the al-Bakr neighborhood in the Anbar governorate one month after I was assigned there in 2015. The road from Maysan to Anbar was very difficult because Daesh had entered the area, set up positions and cut off the roads. Convoys, therefore, had to use dusty roads. When Yasser arrived, his black uniform and his weapon had turned the color of dust. Despite the difficult journey and exhaustion, he refused my offer to rest a little bit. He insisted on touring the area of operations.”
The morale of the troops was tested during the battles for Fallujah, given the difficult topography and that supply lines were cut off. Yasser’s determination and encouragement kept his unit fighting.
“We both participated in the battles to liberate Ramadi and Fallujah. He held the position of deputy commander of the Second Company. We spent two weeks at the Nuaimiya berm in Fallujah. It was known for the fierceness of the fighting, the difficult topography, and the lack of food and water. However, this did not frighten Yasser, whose smile eased the hearts of men and raised morale.”
Lt. Yasser became well-known for his courage, and he was careful to ensure the well-being of his men and the maintenance of their equipment. He was not a man who would leave a wounded or dead man on the battlefield. He assured his men that they would have what they needed, and that he would not leave them behind if they were wounded or killed.
Staff Col. Arkan Jalal al-Tikriti, commander of the Maysan Battalion, told Unipath the following story:
“Daesh attacked the Federal Police in the Hasiba region, east of Ramadi, and managed to destroy some defenses. We received orders from Combined Joint Operation Command (CJOC) to deploy our unit to the Hasiba East region. We moved from Habbaniyah toward Hasiba. The journey through the desert was long and difficult, and we were surrounded by Daesh traps and ambushes. Clashes with Daesh began after we arrived, and during the battle, Lt. Yasser’s group was hit by a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED). Yasser was wounded in the shoulder. Force protection procedures required that the site should have been abandoned, given the possibility that the enemy would attack with another SVBIED followed by troops, as this was a common Daesh tactic. However, when Yasser learned that he had lost one of his Soldiers, he decided to climb to a rooftop to look for him. The force of the explosion had launched the body toward nearby houses. He didn’t leave until the body was recovered. This earned him the trust of his troops.”
Lt. Youssef recounted another situation that occurred during the battle of Mosul:
“We left exactly at 3 o’clock on the orders of the colonel toward our target in east Mosul. The Al-Zahra neighborhood battle was the fiercest. Daesh fought desperately and used suicide bombers and traps extensively. Our mission was to hold the main street to cut off suicide bombers and VBIEDs to prevent them from hitting the advanced columns. However, we faced a major challenge, since all of the houses of the street were shanties except for a single two-story building. The shanties were low and had metal ceilings. In other words, there was nowhere safe for us to set up base and protect ourselves. The area was open and highly vulnerable to VBIED attacks.
“After a difficult night of fighting, Daesh launched a fierce attack on our positions at first light, recognizing the exhaustion of our fighters. However, Yasser led the battle from the rooftop, preventing the enemy from moving, and we were able to hold our position. On the second day, the commanders sent a new officer to lead the company so that Yasser could get some rest. However, he decided to stay with the company, saying that he would share its fate.”
Yasser was a brave fighter who refused to leave anything behind that the enemy could use to kill his friends. Col. Jalal recalled the time when Yasser endangered his life to retrieve a heavy machine gun that Soldiers had left behind as they pulled back:
“On May 19, 2015, the enemy launched a widespread assault on our district. Orders came to withdraw from the location. In these circumstances, Yasser stood out as a courageous leader. He withdrew his Soldiers from their positions without any losses and without losing any ammunition or weapons. There was also a heavy machine gun (50 caliber) detachment at point 60. It had a strategic position that overlooked all of the roads. Yasser knew that the detachment had withdrawn and left its machine guns behind.
“Even though these were not his positions or weapons, he knew that leaving these effective weapons in the hands of Daesh would cause heavy losses. He went with one of the Soldiers, in the midst of heavy gunfire, to retrieve the machine guns. The unit’s leadership witnessed him endangering himself to prevent Daesh from capturing the weapons. Yasser and I were the last of the unit to withdraw. The enemy was only a few meters away from them, and bullets were coming in from all directions. This did not deter Yasser from bringing the weapons down from the second floor before withdrawing.”
In addition to his great courage, this heroic man was also very morally upright and respected the local inhabitants. Martyr Yasser’s ability to deal with civilians in liberated areas was a source of pride for the fighters of the Counter-Terrorism Service and earned him the respect of civilians. There are many stories of their affection for and trust in him.
Yasser’s father spoke of how proud he, his wife and Yasser’s sisters were when Yasser called to tell them the following story, which speaks volumes about his excellent upbringing:
“During the cleansing operation of a neighborhood in Ramadi, Yasser came across a large amount of gold in a home. The inhabitants had quickly left the area during the invasion by Daesh. In the presence of his men, Yasser counted and documented the finds and sent them to headquarters along with information on the house to ensure that they could be returned to their owners.”
Lt. Youssef shared another story that exemplified Yasser’s ethics:
“While searching Mosul’s left bank, we entered several houses where the inhabitants were still present. Yasser did not allow any of his Soldiers to act inappropriately toward the girls. He advised the fighters to respect the inhabitants and treat them as their own kin. He was a very brave gentleman.”
Lt. Youssef paused in a moment of silence before continuing:
“We were ordered to search the Al-Muhandiseen neighborhood on the left bank for weapons and terrorist safe houses. We raided a house that was supposed to be a den of Daesh fighters, but found only girls since the terrorists had fled. Yasser did not allow the full force to enter, but went in with two of his fighters to search. They conducted the inspection very respectfully and collected evidence. To reassure one of the girls, who was trembling with fear, Yasser urged her to consider them brothers who were there to protect her. After completing the inspection, he ordered the Soldiers to give the girls food and water.”
Col. Jalal recounted an unusual story:
“A few days after the liberation of the left bank, the city suffered an electricity blackout. The neighborhood had a generator and needed fuel, and Yasser acquired the address and the telephone number of the tanker driver who normally brought the fuel. The tanker was located 30 kilometers away, and because Daesh used them as VBIEDs, the security forces had forbidden their use. Yasser called me and requested my approval to bring the tanker. I agreed to the idea. After a lot of effort on his behalf, we received approval to bring the tanker. Yasser spent two hours calling the checkpoints along the way. When the fuel arrived, the inhabitants were thrilled to get electricity and very grateful to Lt. Yasser’s efforts to restore power only days after liberation.”
Lt. Youssef described how Lt. Yasser treated starving children in the poor neighborhoods of Mosul:
“Despite the shortage of rations and that supply lines had been cut, Yasser and his Soldiers shared their water and food with civilians. Lt. Yasser carried water and food during his patrols through his area of responsibility, which he distributed to the children we found in the streets. The Soldiers learned from their leader to put the safety and comfort of citizens above everything else and were eager to share their food with locals. This helped keep civilians on our side, and in turn they provided intelligence on the locations of terrorist safe houses.”
As for the story of Yasser’s martyrdom, here is how his friend described it:
Yasser was in an ambush house containing an anti-tank missile launcher. His orders were to cut off Daesh movements and to hunt their VBIEDs before they attacked our advance troops. The missile launcher destroyed a number of Daesh VBIEDs and transport vehicles. However, the house was targeted by enemy bombardment. Yasser was in a neighboring house during the strike and rushed to provide first aid to the wounded and to see if anyone had been killed. He could have sent one of his men, but to provide an accurate assessment to the commanders and to ensure the safety of his fighters, he elected to go himself.
The house was struck a second time while he was inside, leading to his martyrdom. He joined the other martyrs, leaving behind tales that speak to his heroism and bravery.
These stories are retold by his fellow officers and throughout the homes and schools he helped liberate and are reflected in the eyes of the displaced people reassured by the kindness of that sun-tanned young Soldier from the South.