The sun was already scorching on a recent Friday morning when David Eubank, a former U.S. Special Forces operative turned aid worker, caught sight of the bodies.
They were scattered over a street near Mosul’s now destroyed Pepsi factory.
“There was a woman sprawled on her face. Dead,” Eubank said. “A baby, all shot up. Dead. Near them, two old people. Dead. And then you realize all those lumps of rags were kids. Dead dead dead.”
All had been shot, he said, by Islamic State snipers cutting down those fleeing the hell their neighborhood had become as Iraqi forces fought to dislodge the jihadists from their so-called Iraqi capital.
Then, in the distance, Eubank noticed movement among a group of corpses clustered before a wall pocked by bullets: A half-naked toddler stumbled over the bodies; a girl of about 5 peeked from under the hijab of her dead mother; propped up against the wall, a wounded man waved for help.
The sniper fire continued, and the the survivors were 150 yards away. Eubank and some Iraqi troops quickly came up with a plan: Eubank would try to rescue the girl.