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Caliphate Chapter 8: The Briefcase | New York Times Audio Series (Transcript)

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Caliphate Chapter 8: The Briefcase | New York Times Audio Series (Transcript)
Length: 34 mins

MS: From the New York Times and the team that brought you the Daily, this is Caliphate.

AM: Can I get you to tell us what day it is and what we’re up to?

RC: It’s Sunday, July 9th. We slept in what appears to be an abandoned villa here on the outskirts of western Mosul as we wait for our embed with the counter terrorism division of the Iraqi security force. And we were supposed to take off at 8:00. We’re now sitting in the armored car that they provided for us. The armored car is not turning on, so we have a gaggle of men that are pouring over the hood trying to figure out how to get this car started.

AM: There’s a rumor that it may just be out of gas.

RC: [Laughs] There’s a rumor it’s out of gas, great, great.

RC: Hawk, is it just out of diesel?

AM: Chapter 8. The briefcase.

AM: Eventually, after several hours, we get a working car.

RC: Yeah. So we suit up. We put on our flak jackets, we put on our helmets, I’ve got several trash bags, we’re with the elite counter terrorism force of the Iraqi army, we have their permission to go and collect documents.

AM: What’s the plan?

Haw: This is very dangerous.

RC: And we’ve told them that we’re specifically trying to get to one building. But it’s unclear if it’s going to be safe enough to go there.

AM: So there’s a sniper risk and they’re planning an airstrike?

Haw: Yes.

RC: In fact, they’ve warned us that we’re driving into an active war zone.

AM: So we’re now inside Mosul?

Haw: Yeah, this is the Mosul. This is western Mosul, this is the main road leading from Mosul to Baghdad.

AM: There’s huge chunks missing on the road. Are those airstrikes?

Haw: Yeah, they’re all airstrikes [inaudible].

AM: Hawk, could you describe what you see? You’re shaking your head, what do you mean?

Haw: Yeah, I mean — yeah. I’m speechless. As you can see, it’s like, just cars, what’s left of to be known as cars and debris and rubble everywhere. I can’t tell where am I now. This is my city; I don’t know where am I.

AM: You don’t even recognize it?

Haw: It’s not recognizable.

AM: We got into the city. We got out of the car.

AM: What do you see?

RC: So we’re parked on a narrow street in western Mosul. The houses all around us have been destroyed. The windows have and blasted out. Coils of rebar, the gates and windows of the shops are warped from whatever blast they experienced. We just opened the doors of the car and immediately you could smell the stench of dead bodies. We can’t see them but you can smell them.

AM: So next, we went to — I don’t even know how to describe it — it’s kind of like a makeshift base?

RC: Basically, the closest military position to where we were trying to go.

AM: And inside there were all of these young military men.

RC: They were actually all from the CTS, the counter-terrorism service. And they’re the people that we’re embedded with so they invited us in.

AM: And you started talking with some of them.

RC: Yeah. The commanders all have the same sort of phone and sort of iPad that has a map.

RC: Where is ISIS?

MS: That’s ISIS.

RC: That shows in great detail where the friendly forces are and where ISIS is.

Haw: So this is where we are.

RC: So the building we are aiming for was actually a church. This is the place that I knew had been the headquarters of the Hisbah, that the religious police, the same unit that Huseifa used to be a member of, and it’s at that point that Hawk recognized the scenery and he went, “Oh my God. We’re actually here.”

Read the full transcript here.