Sniper watched ISIS fighters' bodies ‘burst like balloons’ as he killed 250

A BRIT sniper who fought ISIS has described how the jihadis bodies would “burst like balloons” as he picked them off – and admitted he took pleasure in killing them.

Azad Cudi, 35, battled the jihadis as they rampaged through Syria and with his comrades fought in a crucial battle that stemmed the tide of their advance.


He began fighting ISIS in 2014 when he was living in a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria – known as Rojava – that sprang up when the civil war broke out in the country.

With ISIS fighters just five miles away from his home in Qamishli, he volunteered for the Kurdish YPG militia.

After scoring highly in shooting practice during training, he became a sniper.

He has now recounted his extraordinary story in a new book ‘Long Shot – My Life as a Sniper in the Fight Against ISIS.’

Azad was born in Iran and claimed asylum Britain in 2004 after deserting from the Iranian army. He is now a British citizen.

In an exclusive interview with The Sun Online in a city in Yorkshire where he lives, Azad spoke candidly about the grim work he undertook.

Armed with an M16 assault rifle for shorter kills and a Dragunov specialised sniper’s rifle for longer targets he set about stalking ISIS fighters on the frontline, in the Jazira region near the Iraqi border.

LIKE A COLD STONE

“Within about 500 hundred metres I went for the head which was very clean and easy to finish off,” he said.

“When it was longer – 700 or 800 – I went for the body. It’s the sniper’s technique that over 700 you aim for the body.”

Lying concealed for hours at a time “like a cold stone” either behind a wall or camouflaged in open ground he would watch ISIS fighters on their front line.

Through his scope he could see if a bullet had hit its target and the effect of the impact.

“The head just jumps and flies back a bit. The body deflates like a balloon – it just loses control,” he said.

“At long range you often fire into a hole in a building where there is a light so you can only imagine what’s in there.

Who are the YPG and YPJ?

YPG or People’s Protection Units are a Kurdish militia that has become the main part of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The US-backed SDF has recently cleared ISIS out of the final area it controlled, in the small town of Baghouz, by the Euphrates River in north-eastern Syria. 

Fighting alongside them are the YPJ – Women’s Protection Units – for whom Azad has nothing but admiration saying they “fight, kill and die as hard as the men, as ISIS can attest”.

The YPG is regarded as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, which says it is tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas.

When the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, the Kurds in the north of the country established an enclave and YPG acted as a self-defence militia.

Many local non-Kurds as well as volunteers from abroad also fought for the YPG.

ISIS began its terrifying advance in June 2014, sending the well-equipped Iraqi army into headlong retreat.

The YPG in Syria also faced an onslaught from the jihadis and were one of the few groups offering effective resistance to ISIS.

In September of that year ISIS, by that time a sophisticated, proficient and well-resourced army equipped with captured tanks and artillery laid siege to the town of Kobani.

Kobani was defended by a small force of Kurds with “weapons generally older than we were” but in a heroic stand they first stemmed the ISIS tide and then defeated them.

“There’s been times when I’ve heard them screaming after being hit or a lot of noise. On other occasions you see a split second of movement and they just drop like a lifeless statue.”

He says he could “clearly see” the faces of the ISIS fighters he was about to kill in the distance.

“You’re in a sneaky, stealthy position. They have no idea where you are. They would sometimes look straight at my position but not see me,” he said.

Often that meant rising before dawn to catch them at prayer or when they were changing guard shifts. He says it was “was like boxing – sizing up your opponent”.

Some ISIS fighters were easy to pick off but higher value targets such as senior commanders were more careful and needed more work.

Azad said he would create a picture of these targets – what time they woke up, how old they were and how they behaved.

All this required “absolute concentration” and the ability to remain hidden, knowing if his position was revealed it could be fatal.

When his target was chosen, a well-honed routine to carefully control his breathing and keep his hand absolutely still kicked in.

A deep inhalation was half breathed out – and then he paused for a few seconds.

“Through those five or six long, deep, calm seconds, you stay focused on the target, squeezing your trigger. You fire almost without realising it.”

One of the things I’ve had a problem dealing with – to make peace with – is how could I feel pleasure at killing another human being

Throughout his time as a sniper Azad estimates he killed around 250 ISIS fighters.

"It could be more, it could be less. I didn’t pick up a sniper rifle to add numbers. There’s nothing beautiful or romantic about it."

At the beginning he was often troubled at killing other human beings – even knowing what ISIS had done.

“I was just concentrated on killing them or less they would kill us or rape women or kill people with suicide bombs.

"It’s just part of the job but it’s not easy killing another human being.”

But as the battle against ISIS dragged on and his comrades fell around him his attitude hardened.

“They attacked us in huge numbers and we lost so many of our people and so many of us were wounded.”

When they scored a victory over them “that success which includes killing ISIS gave me a kind of feeling satisfaction and pleasure”.

“Is it the wrong thing to feel? Yes it is. Did I feel it? Yes I did," he said.

'WE DIE HERE'

By September 2014, Kurdish forces in their enclave found themselves facing an ISIS onslaught in the town of Kobani.

The jihadi’s aim was to cut off the enclave t the town on the Turkish border.

There were around 250 YPG and YPJ forces in centre of the town and seeing the danger faced by his colleagues, Azad volunteered to go help them in their desperate fight.

By that point ISIS were an “overwhelming horde, subjecting us to an onslaught of artillery, tanks and mortars, then moving into the ruins to mop up survivors”.

He was under no illusion about the significance of the battle. If ISIS won then the road to the Mediterranean was open to them.

“It was huge threat even to Europe. It was a huge responsibility.”

ISIS held 80 per cent of the city but the Kurds decided to make a stand on the streets.

“So we said we ‘die in this street’ and we leave humanity, the Kurdish people a legacy to live on. We die here.”

Azad was initially pressed into action as an ordinary soldier and after some intense fighting the Kurds managed to hold off ISIS and then embarked on a plan of infiltrating behind their lines.

“It was a suicide mission,” he said.

As the battle continued to rage, Azad returned to sniping duties, using the ruins of the town to conceal himself and pick off ISIS fighters.

The battle was now joined by warplanes from the US and other countries and the Kurds were able to begin pushing back ISIS outside Kobani.

ISIS were finally pushed from their last strip of territory though their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has released now appeared in a video.

But war was beginning to take its toll on Azad and his fight came to an end when in April 2015, one of his commanders saw the strain he was under and sent him to the rear.

 

Who are the YPG and YPJ?

YPG or People’s Protection Units are a Kurdish militia that has become the main part of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The US-backed SDF has recently cleared ISIS out of the final area it controlled, in the small town of Baghouz, by the Euphrates River in north-eastern Syria. 

Fighting alongside them are the YPJ – Women’s Protection Units – for whom Azad has nothing but admiration saying they “fight, kill and die as hard as the men, as ISIS can attest”.

The YPG is regarded as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, which says it is tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas.

When the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, the Kurds in the north of the country established an enclave with the YPG as their self-defence militia.

Many local non-Kurds as well as volunteers from abroad also fought for the YPG.

ISIS began its terrifying advance in June 2014, sending the well-equipped Iraqi army into headlong retreat.

The YPG in Syria also face an onslaught from the jihadis.

At the time they were one of the few forces offering effective resistance to ISIS.

In September of that year ISIS, by that time a sophisticated, proficient and well-resourced army equipped with captured tanks and artillery laid siege to the town of Kobani.

Kobani was defended by a small force of Kurds with “weapons generally older than we were” but it a heroic stand they first stemmed the ISIS tide and then defeated them.

“I was extremely exhausted. In my soul, my spirit all that was left was a small tiny light,” he said,

Azad left in 2016 and then made his way back to the UK.

Other Britons who fought with the YPG have faced prosecution in the UK though none has been convicted.

But Azad says he’s not been questioned and has “no idea” why.

He understands concerns about UK citizens travelling to Syria but says there should be no prosecutions of those who fought for the YPG.

“We lost six comrades who came from Britain in the fight against ISIS,” said Azad.

“I feel a huge amount of respect. They took a conscious decision to support us. Not for money but for the future, for humanity. They are real heroes.

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“I am part of the group that hasn’t been approached by the government.

"There are many people who have fought with the YPG who have not been prosecuted.

“If for what I did I would be put in prison then I will respect their decision. I’m proud of what I did.”










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