When Ako Abdulrahman came under attack from ISIS militants advancing around the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, he realized he needed protection.
The Kurdish Peshmerga fighter decided to invest in an armored car, but he had little clue the vehicle would end up saving the lives of dozens of people. After shopping around, he settled on a bulletproof BMW, and paid $10,000 for the early 1990s model at a car auction.
“My friends were very happy when I bought the armored car,” he tells CNN. “We started driving in it to the front line near Kirkuk, not worried about ISIS drive-by shootings or roadside bombs.”
Abdulrahman, 32, lives with his wife and four children in Taza Khurmatou, some 23 kilometers south of Kirkuk. On October 21, dozens of ISIS militants carried out a coordinated series of attacks on the oil-rich city, targeting security forces and civilians in several neighborhoods; 64 died and 86 ISIS militants were killed.
More than 100 civilians and security personnel were wounded; many of them were left stranded because of ISIS militants’ indiscriminate firing, while others were trapped by the terror group’s snipers shooting from rooftops
Abdulrahman knew he had to act.
“I told myself, this is the right time to help people, this is the right moment to do it. I am a fighter and I have a bulletproof car, shame on me if I can’t help,” he says. He drove the armored BMW through the city, returning again and again to collect the injured, as ISIS gunmen peppered the vehicle with bullets.
“I kept telling myself, my people are in danger, they need me, my city is in danger, I have to protect it.”