MARINE COMBAT HEADQUARTERS, SOUTHERN IRAQIt was a single act of violence that forced Mohammed into action. Looking through clear glass into an operating room, he watched a solitary man dressed entirely in black slap Pfc. Jessica Lynch twicefirst with his palm, then with the backside of his hand. Lying incapacitated in a bed at Saddam Hospital in Nasiriyah, Lynch's head was bandaged and her arm was in a splint. She was going to die.
How brave she was, Mohammed thought. At that moment, he says, "my heart cut." He had come to Saddam Hospital because he had heard an American prisoner was there. His friend, a doctor at the hospital, told him that the Saddam Fedayeen had a young woman in captivity, and Mohammed wanted to see for himself. It is the hospital where his wife Iman works, so he had no problem moving through the corridors amid the more than 40 Fedayeen who had set up a headquarters inside.
After the Fedayeen had left Lynch's room, he walked in with his doctor friend to see her. She thought he was also a doctor, and he told her she was going to be fine. She smiled.
And then he did something remarkable. Leaving the hospital, he went to a Marine checkpoint on the outskirts of Nasiriyah with his arms in the airknowing that marines shoot at those who don't raise their hands. He told them about young American soldier in captivity, and about how the Fedayeen were standing guard by her door. Mohammed knew the risks to himself and his wife. He had witnessed the Fedayeen's brutality. Days before, he had seen a woman shot and dragged through Nasiriyah's streets. Her misdeed: waving to the crew inside a U.S. helicopter.
Mohammed never went back home, because his neighbors told him that Feda-yeen had already been thererummaging through his things and stealing his old Russian car. He sent his wife and daughter to stay with his father, but not before she drew for the Americans maps of the hospitals' floor planwhere the security cameras and exits were. Iman told the Americans about a basement under the hospital and about the roof of the building where a helicopter could land.
The helicopters landed early Wednesday morning, Black Hawk helicopters carrying commandos who stormed Saddam Hospital and rescued Lynch from captivity. Circling the skies above, an AC-130 gunship armed with a cannon that fires 1,800 rounds a minute trained its guns on the hospital's entrance. Quick to declare the raid a success, U.S. Central Command woke reporters up at 4 a.m. local time to announce that she had been rescued.
Sitting next to his wife and 6-year-old daughter at Marine headquarters, camouflage netting blocking out a starry night, Mohammed beamed with pride as he pawed a patch given to him by the CH-46 helicopter crew that transferred his family to the safety of this Marine base. One day, he says, he would again like to meet the young woman whom he watched get slapped through the clear glass window.