VERIFY: Is dramatic video of civilian rescuing Iraqi girl real?

It's a dramatic video that shows the apparent rescue of an Iraqi girl by a retired Green Beret amid heavy gunfire from ISIS, and it's been making the rounds on the Internet and social media in recent weeks. The question is, is it real?

David Eubank is retired from the United States Army. The decorated veteran has served all over the world. After retiring he founded a civilian humanitarian organization called Free Burma Rangers, which has expanded its efforts beyond its namesake geography.

First Coast News wanted to talk with Eubank himself, so we reached out to him via Skype on June 24 to discuss his organization and particularly the video, which he says was shot June 2 in Mosul. Speaking from his home in suburban Seattle, Eubank was engaging, candidly describing Free Burma Rangers.

"We're a humanitarian relief organization that goes into conflict areas, first in Burma for the last 20-plus years, giving help - mostly that's medical help," Eubank began. "But also food and anything else we can get to help people, giving love, reminding them God loves them, that we love them, that we're with them."

That sweeping description, he said, includes risking, dodging, and sometimes being hit by bullets and shrapnel while rescuing innocents in war-torn locations, which is what brought him to Mosul, specifically the outer perimeter of a blown-out Pepsi facility occupied by ISIS fighters who had just killed dozens or more, many of whose bodies were piled up against the structure's exterior wall.

"The last month or two, starting in May, we saw an increase of ISIS shooting civilians as they were trying to flee," he said.

The more killing, the more were trying to get out.

"Families started running across the highway and getting shot." ... "They said, 'ISIS is shooting anybody coming near the hospital and the Pepsi factory,'" Eubank continued. "We saw one, two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty - many, many dead people in the street. Babies, old people in wheelchairs."

That's when Eubank and his comrades - shielded only by one Iraqi tank - said he and his comrades noticed a few survivors, some writing, some cowering, among the dead.

"I remember thinking, 'Wow, I'm going to die running from the cover of the tank to these people,' because ISIS is just shooting constantly and all these dead bodies are proof, this is the killing zone.'"

But, upping the ante, he specifically noticed a girl among those still alive, who he estimates was about six years old.

"I thought, 'If I die today trying to save this little girl, my wife and kids will understand."

Despite a helmet and some body armor, Eubank was largely exposed. Some of his team were even less armored. He had the tank, some men to fire back at ISIS, and a U.S. drone-provided smoke screen, but he says he had to make a break for the final 10-20 yards in order to rescue the girl.

I asked Eubank why he would ever consider wearing less than full protection from enemy gunfire.

"Sometimes I wear no body armor and helmet," he explained. "That's not because I'm brave; that's because I think either the risk isn't that high - it's also mostly because I'm old, man! I'm a broken dude! I don't need to carry extra weight. I've got to run!," he said.

Then came the more stark question: What would you say to anyone who doubts the authenticity of the rescue and the video.

"That's about as real -- well, not as real as it gets, it is dead-on real, and all I can say is thank God we didn't get killed," Eubank said unequivocally.

"You could ask the American military because they filmed this whole incident from their drones," he explained further. "They watched it all happen because they're calling in - they're delivering the smoke. And they had a drone over us the whole time filming it. They saw the whole thing."

A self-described "poor follower of Jesus," Eubank clarified that he does not hate ISIS but will fight what the militant group is doing. He clarified that Free Burma Rangers include people of many faiths but that the only qualities he requires of volunteers are to be motivated by love, to be able to read and write (for the purpose of understanding basic medical information and reporting), and physical and moral courage.

For those who still don't believe, Eubank smiled, "Come with me."

To that end, Eubank said he and his family are planning their next mission in either August or September. He explained that, although the video posted on FBR's Web site is edited, the group shoots video as constantly as possible, and he would make the raw material available if ever necessary.

First Coast News also consulted with other journalists who had confirmed authenticity with Iraqi military officials.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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