On Jan. 31, FRONTLINE Premieres “Battle for Iraq”
On January 31, FRONTLINE Reports from Inside Mosul
BATTLE FOR IRAQ
Premiering on PBS and online:
Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at 10 p.m. ET / 9 p.m. CT
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On January 31, FRONTLINE premieres Battle for Iraq – a one-hour, two-part report from inside the brutal fight to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS.
First, in Battle for Iraq — produced in association with the Guardian — Iraqi-born Guardian reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad makes a dangerous trip inside Mosul to examine the fight and its toll. He speaks with civilians caught in the turmoil, members of Iraq’s elite special operations forces, known as the Golden Division, and captured ISIS fighters. During his reporting, he survives a suicide bombing and ISIS sniper and grenade attacks.
Despite early progress by the Iraqi Army — a largely Shia group backed by Kurdish forces and U.S. airstrikes — Abdul-Ahad discovers a complicated situation on the ground: a war of attrition has set in and there is deep-seated mistrust of the Iraqi Army by the majority-Sunni population, who are suffering heavy casualties.
“As we start driving in, you realize you’re not driving through a liberated neighborhood… you’re driving through a battle zone,” Abdul-Ahad says, adding that “this is a battle happening between two enemies on a land inhabited by civilians.”
Inside Mosul, with the Golden Division, Abdul-Ahad and producer Joshua Baker find themselves at the heart of an ISIS attack: a truck packed with explosives detonates just feet away from the house they were staying in, burying them as it collapses. When they emerge from the rubble, Baker has a fractured spine, but it is the Iraqi civilians who bear the brunt of the attack – with many feared to be dead under the debris, several children injured and others’ homes destroyed.
“I think that day, we realized the complexity of the battle,” Abdul-Ahad says, adding “no one knows how many civilians have been killed in this battle of Mosul, not even the government of Iraq.”
From sitting down with a captured ISIS fighter accused of helping carry out seven suicide attacks, to filming inside a nearby hospital that is struggling to cope with thousands of injured civilians, to meeting residents of a refugee camp where there is a growing fear that life under the Iraqi army could be even worse than under ISIS, Battle for Iraq is a gripping and deeply informed at the fight for Mosul and its implications.
In conjunction with the broadcast, Abdul-Ahad’s reporting continues in Battle for Mosul 360° – an immersive, 360-degree Facebook film that takes viewers inside the war-torn city. Battle for Iraq will also be available on theguardian.com at 10 p.m. ET / 9 p.m. CT.
The second part of the January 31st broadcast is the film Hunting ISIS, where FRONTLINE goes deeper into Mosul, with a Golden Division unit that has been at the tip of the spear in the fight against ISIS. Director Olivier Sarbil spent six weeks embedded with the 1st Battalion, which has been trying to clear ISIS from the city, street by street and house by house.
“This is our country and we must protect it,” says Anmar Alshamry, a 25-year-old Sunni Muslim who leads a squad in the battalion. “Just like we took Ramadi and Fallujah back from ISIS, we’ll do the same with Mosul.”
Intense and up-close, Sarbil’s film shows that it’s not a clear-cut task: Although many Iraqi civilians have fled Mosul, as many as a million are still living within the besieged city — and it’s difficult for the soldiers to tell who’s a civilian, and who’s a fighter. All this is happening against the backdrop of a population fearful of the Iraqi Army’s reputation for sectarian abuses and illegal detentions.
Together, Battle for Iraq and Hunting ISIS continue FRONTLINE’s in-depth reporting on the ISIS threat, offering a haunting, on-the-ground look at life deep within a war zone — and a dramatic portrait of the complexities of the fight against ISIS in Mosul.
Battle for Iraq premieres Tuesday, January 31, at 10/9 c on PBS (check local listings) and will stream in full, for free, online at pbs.org/frontline.
Battle for Iraq and Hunting ISIS are FRONTLINE productions with Mongoose Pictures. Battle for Iraq is in association with The Guardian, and Hunting ISIS is in association with Channel 4. For Battle for Iraq, the reporter and correspondent is The Guardian’s Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. The producer and director is Joshua Baker. For Hunting ISIS, the producer and director is Olivier Sarbil. For Battle for Iraq, the senior producer is Dan Edge. For Hunting ISIS, the senior producers are Dan Edge and James Jones. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath.
FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 82 Emmy Awards and 18 Peabody Awards. Visit pbs.org/frontline and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Google+ to learn more. Founded by David Fanning in 1983, FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the John and Helen Glessner Family Trust and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.