When I traveled to Iraq for six days in October 2015, my main goal was staying alive – I had no idea I would make friends for life.
Our cameraman, Ahmed, is one of those friends who I now call my brother.
In the past several days, he’s sent me several stunning photos and videos from some of the most dangerous places in the world – and was kind enough to allow me to share them with you.
I’m calling this small series ‘On the Road with Ahmed’ and it we’ll have a new update anytime he decides to send along more insane pictures.
Last week he was just outside Mosul, and sent this fabulous video of the Peshmerga’s awesome pre-battle song/dance ritual.
[WATCH: Here’s How Peshmerga Prepare for Battle Against ISIS]
He also told me how he narrowly escaped an ISIS ambush as they reported from a Peshmerga vehicle convoy.
[Window to War: Journos Narrowly Escape Death While Covering Battle of Mosul]
Right now he’s in Sirte, Libya on assignment.
Sirte been an ISIS stronghold until recently, where coalition attacks have drastically reduced the number of remaining jihadists. The town gained worldwide notoriety when ISIS posted video of a mass execution of Coptic Christians on the beach:
Just last month a Dutch journalist was fatally shot in Sirte by an ISIS sniper, tragically highlighting how dangerous this area still is.
Ahmed is currently reporting in that same location, and you can see the carnage left behind by battle is breathtaking.
You can also see that Ahmed is no stranger to the selfie.
The building walls have been pummeled by heavy duty rounds, evidence of intense fighting.
Ahmed, who learned English by watching American movies, is high energy and always positive. He most often said “Rock and roll baby!” while we were working together, and explained he has a goatee because he wanted to emulate American heavy metal band members from acts such as Metallica.
Needless to say, he’s a character – so, it’s unsurprising to see him with a smile on his face in one of the craziest places on the planet.
Here is a panoramic shot of the city he took on his phone.
It’s extremely dangerous reporting, but extremely valuable as well. The world tends to lose interest on important stories such as these if there aren’t powerful images to go along with it.
Look at the building below – massive fighting clearly took place here.
Tanks have been more commonplace than cars in recent months, but all that is beginning to change. Some 5,000 displaced Libyan citizens have reportedly returned to their homes as the number of ISIS militants remaining continue to dwindle.
In my last message with Ahmed today, I told him I’d be praying for his safety. We talked about his desire to someday visit the United States, and when I told him the first place I would take him is Hollywood, California – he said he’d want to go meet Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
He’s a huge fan – and claims many people say he and the newly anointed Sexiest Man Alive look alike.
Hmmm. The Iraqi Dwayne Johnson?
Ok, maybe not.
Sorry Ahmed, we love you anyway though.