Early on the morning of Dec. 12 last year, Iraqi Army Major Hamza Finjan led a raid on a small house in eastern Mosul that was being used as an Islamic State group base.
Knowing that the task would be dangerous, he told his personal bodyguards and driver — perks given to Iraqi officers — to stay behind.
As Finjan’s men moved into the house, Islamic State fighters surrounded them using a network of tunnels connecting the buildings to a nearby mosque.
Finjan called for support, but none came.
Within two hours he was dead along with four other soldiers.
As Iraqi forces prepare for the operation to retake the western half of Mosul, Finjan’s family in Baghdad, more than 300km away, continues to mourn their son.
Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers are estimated to have died in the fight for Mosul so far, but the Iraqi government does not release official casualty reports, a move that many Iraqis view as disrespectful of their sacrifice.
Iraqi commanders on the ground blame the high casualty rates on the nature of the fight: the city of Mosul — Iraq’s second-largest — is a large, dense urban area and the operation to retake it is larger in scale than any conventional military fight since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
Finjan’s family blamed the planning of the Mosul operation for the death of their son.
He had fought in Mosul alongside US forces in 2008 and before his deployment there last year, he attended officer training courses in Jordan.
Finjan had the respect of his men and knew how to clear a room and secure a perimeter, but the increasingly difficult missions he was being given in Mosul were testing his many years of training and experience.
“The way that the Iraqi government planned the Mosul operation was like a trap,” said his father, Finjan Mathi.
He said he believed that the military was pushed to advance too quickly by the nation’s political leadership.
“They should have pulled all the civilians out so they could use heavier weapons,” Finjan Mathi said.
His frustration is echoed by Iraqi commanders on the ground in Mosul, who said the operation would have been easier if the city was emptied of civilians, like the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah in Anbar Province were before they were retaken from Islamic State militants.
The family says the government’s practice of not releasing military casualty information dishonors the family’s sacrifice.
A photograph of Hamza Finjan’s hangs in his family’s sitting room in Baghdad’s Shaab neighborhood on the capital’s northeastern edge.
Beside it is a photo of his older brother, a police officer killed when a car bomb exploded at a checkpoint he was guarding.
His family is poor, religious and deeply patriotic. Like the vast majority of the families whose sons join the country’s armed forces, they trace their tribal roots to Iraq’s predominantly Shiite south.
Since the Mosul operation began, Finjan Mathi said he has attended more than 25 funerals, in addition to that of his son.
Regardless, Finjan Mathi said he is proud of his son’s service to his country.
“We sacrifice our sons for our land, not for our government,” Finjan Mathi said. “All we ask for in return is respect.”
MORE RESOURCES: The prime minister announced an extra A$1.1bn in health-related spending, of which A$150m would be spent on domestic violence support services Australia yesterday announced a nearly US$100 million boost in funding to tackle domestic violence after support services reported a spike in coronavirus-related family abuse. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there had been a 75 percent surge in Google searches for help during the ongoing nationwide shutdown of non-essential services to curb the spread of COVID-19. Women’s Safety, a domestic violence charity in Australia’s most populous New South Wales state, has reported that more than 40 percent of workers had seen an increase in client numbers, with more than one-third of cases directly linked to the virus outbreak. In neighboring Victoria, women’s support
Sixty-four migrants from Ethiopia were found dead on Tuesday, crammed inside a freight container in northwestern Mozambique, a senior hospital official said. The victims were discovered in a blue cargo container loaded on a truck. They were surrounded by survivors in temperatures of about 34°C. “A truck transporting illegal immigrants from Malawi, suspected to be Ethiopians, was stopped at the Mussacana weight bridge in Tete [Province] and 64 people were found dead. Only 14 survived,” said the official, who asked not be named as he did not have the authority to speak to the media. “The cause of death is presumed to
OUTCRY: Benny Gantz’s allies accused him of surrendering ‘without a fight’ as he pushed for an alliance with the indicted Israeli prime minister Israel’s Benny Gantz on Thursday called for an emergency unity government after being elected parliamentary speaker, surprise developments that point towards an interim alliance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to tackle the COVID-19 crisis. Gantz’s moves appeared to offer Netanyahu, indicted on corruption charges, a path to extend his 11-year tenure, although no agreement had been declared and the shifting political landscape was causing significant fallout within the anti-Netanyahu bloc. Gantz ally Yair Lapid, who broke with the ex-military chief earlier on Thursday, accused him of surrendering “without a fight,” declaring the breakup of the Blue and White alliance that Gantz had
Canada opposes a plan by the US to send troops to its northern frontier to catch border jumpers who might be carrying COVID-19, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday. Trudeau and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland were responding to a Global News report that said White House officials were discussing such a military deployment to the recently closed border, the world’s longest at 8,900km. Amid the pandemic it was temporarily shut as of Saturday to all non-essential travelers on both sides, but not cross-border trade. “Canada and the United States have the longest unmilitarized border in the world. And it