“Shut up and stay still,” the woman in black fatigues and a black headscarf snapped over her shoulder at the armed men behind her as she sat down for an interview.
Immediately they went quiet, each adjusting his weapon and standing up straight as if he’d been called to attention.
This is a woman who commands respect, I thought. She keeps a Beretta 9-millimeter pistol in a holster under her left arm. The area around the trigger was silver where the paint had worn off.
The woman in question, 39-year-old Wahida Mohamed — better known as Um Hanadi — leads a force of around 70 men in the area of Shirqat, a town 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Mosul, Iraq. She and her men, part of a tribal militia, recently helped government forces drive ISIS out of the town.
In the man’s world that is rural Iraq, female fighters are a rarity. Um Hanadi is not new to this.
“I began fighting the terrorists in 2004, working with Iraqi security forces and the coalition,” she says. As a result, she attracted the wrath of what eventually became al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which later morphed into ISIS.
“I received threats from the top leadership of ISIS, including from Abu Bakr (al-Baghdadi) himself,” she says, referring to ISIS’s self-declared caliph.
“But I refused.”
“I’m at the top of their most wanted list,” she brags, “even more than the Prime Minister.”
Read More: CNN