A bulletproof BMW and the man who drove it into battle

The armoured German driving machine helped save 81 lives in a recent rescue operation in Iraq.

Courtesy of: Belal Qaradaxe
Courtesy of: Belal Qaradaxe

As fighting against Daesh in northern Iraq intensifies, owning a heavily armoured German automobile may not be such a bad idea.

Updated Nov 26, 2016

Ako Abdurrahman says his car is completely destroyed from the sniper fire  a bullet-riddled reminder of the dozens of people he ferried to safety during a battle with Daesh in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk a fortnight ago.

According to Abdurrahman, most of the injured made it alive to the hospital in Tuz Khormato — an hour's drive away, but 21 of them died from their wounds en route.

"I drove from 6am until 5pm," Abdurrahman told TRT World. 

The soft-spoken Ako Abdurrahman seems eager to to protect the people of Iraq, whether they are Muslim, Christian, Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs or Yazidi. He said his only enemies are Daesh and their supporters. (Belal Qaradaxe)

Abdurrahman is a Kurdish peshmerga fighter living in Tuz Khormato, in an area of Iraq referred to as the Kirkuk Governorate.

The capital city, also named Kirkuk, is about 175km (105 miles) southeast of Mosul, a Daesh stronghold and the centre of a raging battle pitting the terror group against the Iraqi military, peshmerga fighters, and various international forces.

Recently, many Daesh fighters have regrouped in Kirkuk after fleeing Mosul. The city has seen renewed fighting, and peshmerga fighters in the city have felt the force of Daesh's aggression.

The city of Kirkuk has been badly scarred in recent weeks as clashes between Daesh fighters and Iraqi security forces have intensified and the battle in Mosul spills into surrounding regions of Iraq. (AP)

Abdurrahman said that he heard of many peshmerga comrades who were wounded and under sniper fire throughout the city. Without any military armoured vehicles, he knew the only way to save them was with his own car, which he bought only five months ago.

Despite his limited financial status, Abdurrahman saved up enough money to buy a modified late 1990’s BMW.

Not the normal modifications one might expect, such as flashy chrome rims or an aftermarket exhaust system.

Instead, the adjustments included extensive armouring, reinforced panelling and impact-resistant glass, making it essentially bullet proof.

"I bought this car, knowing something like this could happen. My friend and I drove around the city and picked up injured people two-by-two and drove them to Tuz Khormato hospital [75km (46 miles) away]," Abdurrahman said.

"My wife told me not to go, to keep myself for my family, but I told her that my life is no more important than my Kurdish brothers' lives, and their lives are the same as mine."

The armoured machine responsible for taking the trip into the battlefield is currently out of commission. According to Abdurrahman, his car is in serious need of repair after taking over 50 bullets during the day-long rescue operation. (Belal Qaradaxe)

During the 11-hour drive, Abdurrahman said his car took at least 50 direct hits from suspected Daesh fighters and snipers.

"The most dangerous operation was my third run. Someone was shot in front of a hotel and crawled to the main entrance seeking cover. I drove my car to the lobby entrance, and a sniper started shooting at me from within the same hotel," Abdurrahman said.

The unemployed peshmerga fighter said he could not visit any of the people he and his friend rescued that day because his car is "ruined".

‘’After 20 days I should have the parts I need to make repairs and I make runs again," he said.

This German-made luxury car has seen better days. None of the bullets penetrated the cabin's armour plating or bulletproof glass, unlike the engine bay. Abdurrahman said that after the car is repaired, he wants to save more people with his car. (Belal Qaradaxe)

Abdurrahman said he isn't getting any financial help fixing his car, and he's only interested in one thing.

"I am ready to save any life, fighter or civilian. My only enemy is Daesh because they aren’t human. I support anyone against Daesh and their ideology."

Asked if BMW offered to replace his car, Abdurrahman said he was never contacted by the German carmaker.

"No-one offered me any help."

Omar Elwafaii