(Daily Beast) It was a sunny day in late November when Ahmed Ismael, 22, went with a group of seven other fighters to ambush militants from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, on the eastern flank of this besieged town.
Then the plan went terribly wrong. The would-be ambushers were themselves ambushed. Two car bombs exploded and a group of jihadists blocked their way from behind, cutting off their exit route. During the intense firefight that followed, four Kurdish fighters died, including three of Ahmed's cousins.
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"They had heavy weapons but we only had AK-47s,” says Ahmed, his voice still shaky as he recounts the details. “It was my first real fight. We stayed there for four hours. We ran out of ammunition. I was next to my cousins when they died."