tonight on the front lines in the war on isis. strangers bonded together in battle. one american man. >> this isn't really a mission of vengeance. this is more like justice. >> his motivation carved into his bullets. >> orlando, paris, san bernardino, man zblefrp wow. look at that. >> one syrian woman fighting for her homeland. both volunteering to pay the ultimate price in the killing fields of raqqa. >> we're moving forward. with the fighters of the ypg. they are the foot soldiers. forward base. >> and the human toll. children forced to grow up fast. here death is never more than a few feet away. this is a special edition of "nightline." "war on isis: retaking raqqa."
>> announcer: this is a special edition of "nightline." "war on isis: retaking raqqa." good evening. thank you for joining us. tonight we're taking you to the last stronghold of isis in syria where u.s.-backed forces are battling to retake raqqa. the city's fall would be a major defeat for the extremists trying to incite violence around the world, and the stakes couldn't be higher.
abc's ian pannell takes us into the streets where the war is raging from building to building and death is always just seconds away. >> reporter: one shot, one bullet, one kill. perched on a rooftop in raqqa, an american man with isis in the crosshairs. >> this isn't really a mission of vengeance. that's a dirty word. but this is more like justice. >> reporter: and somewhere on the streets below a fellow fighter, a syrian woman on a mission to reclaim her homeland. >> translator: if there is no determination on the ground, there will be no progress. >> we're moving forward. with the fighters of the ypg. these are the fighters of the u.s. coalition working with. they are the foot soldiers. we're moving up to their forward base. >> reporter: two strangers bonded in a battle of the ages
against the death cult that is isis. what began as a popular uprising against the assad regime in syria rapidly descended into a bloody civil war, allowing isis to move in. they named raqqa the capital of their caliphate. a darkness descended here, unleashing a frenzy of barbarism that shocked the world. but finally, last month america's allies breached the city walls, giving this volunteer army hope that the fall of isis is now within their reach. our journey to raqqa began hundreds of miles away. >> we've just left iraqi territory. we're going over the river. and syria's on the other side. personally, this is kind of a big movement. i haven't been able to get back into syria since 2014. that was partly because of the threat from isis.
but now their territory's being diminished. the fight is being taken to them. and finally we're able to go back and report on what's going on in the country. >> reporter: the syrian desert is a vast desolate landscape untouched by time where bedouin tribesmen tend their flocks as they've done forever. a land worn down by sand, scrub, and now this war. this land and its people is steeped in tales of sacrifice. and every day the country bears witness to the suffering the war on isis has unleashed. they cry "shaheed." that means martyr. on this day four soldiers were buried in one town alone. arab and kurd all killed on the fr front line in raqqa against isis. these scenes have been repeated day after day across the north of the country. it underlines the amount of sacrifice people are having to make.
this community of kurds and arabs and ethnic christian groups has done most of the fighting and most of the dying here. the flags of their forces are held aloft as symbols of pride and independence. but the suffering is real. in the cemetery we saw the mother of a child soldier. mahmoud had lied about his age to join the war. he was just 13. childhood ends early here, and the young must learn quickly how to grieve. neda's just lost her father. without blinking she vows to take up arms and avenge her
father. it's a promise that may not be far off. sosda bauer is our guys. >> for people who've never seen syria before, where are we and why are we going here? >> translator: we're heading to our position on the front line to protect our people from isis and to liberate the land. >> reporter: she joined an all female fighting force straight out of high school. around the world women fight for the same rights, the same pay. but in raqqa they fight isis. in a community that honors sexual equality sozda leads the band of young kurdish fighters. >> translator: you can't capture an entire neighborhood at once. you must go house by house. there are mines and snipers. but we are still advancing. >> reporter: there are no vast armies here unlike the fight against ice nis iraq. and in streets and alleys in raqqa sozda and her troops run the gauntlet of isis snipers.
>> we're out of breath here. what the soldier here is saying is because snipers have been targeting the route you have to run in this exact fashion. it's like 200, 250 yards long. and look how lightly armed they are. no tanks, no humvees, not even body armor. the u.s. is sending some vehicles and guns. >> i noticed you've got some homemade bombs here. is that because you're not getting enough supplies, enough weapons from the u.s.-led coalition? >> translator: it's true they are sending us weapons, but it's way less than we need for the big battles we are fighting. >> reporter: but this is what they're up against. well-armed isis militants in raqqa, filmed in a propaganda video, tried and tested in urban warfare. sozdar and her volunteer force often have just bravery and belief to protect them. >> your morale is high. because you feel that you're winning against
on the other side of the city the american sniper known locally as christian, stalking his prey. [ gunshot ] >> it's just harassing fire. they do it to us. we do it to them. it's just like just. it's back and forth. occasionally we get lucky. we kill each other. >> reporter: a volunteer from california, he came here on his own to take on the extremists. how close is isis? >> see the bombed-out building right there? >> yeah. like four, five stories high. >> beyond that. >> just on the other side? >> yeah. >> reporter: and this is his motivation. >> manchester. >> reporter: the names of attacks isis has claimed in america and europe. >> orlando, paris. >> reporter: engraved on his bullets. that just speaks volumes in and of itself. >> yeah. what chance did they have? none. so justice for them. >> reporter: but the risks here
are immense. putting his life on the line with every step. he'd been fighting in a christian unit. seen here in their own propaganda video. ♪ >> no part of you that's scared, nervous, anxious at any point? >> no. not really. i came here for this. you know? this is the final stand-up fight between us and them. >> reporter: his unit is part of the local forces america's working with, a multiethnic coalition formed to take down isis. >> we have people from syria. on the right we have christian here. and then over on the left we have mesa who's from great britain. >> reporter: mesa, another volunteer. >> the fighting is all in this area. >> reporter: he's been here fighting for the cause for three years now. >> do you ever have those moments where you think what on earth am i doing here? those moments of sheer terror. >> yes. there's been a few occasions. i've never really doubted the morality of what i'mery persona.
i believe in democracy. and i believe in the people of syria. >> reporter: fighting to defeat isis but also to preseethmiddlet that's facing extinction. >> what is your message to america? >> i need just one thing. we need the christian and american, all people in america believe in the christian here. >> reporter: you need their help? >> yeah. >> reporter: without the power of an army behind them the going is as slow as it is dangerous. progress. just weeks ago this building was still held by isis, a makeshift mosque. >> you can see here on the wall this is the flag of isis here. here is an extract of poetry. and then if we go through here -- >> reporter: remnants of the religion distorted to fuel their fight. >> we just have a look here. sorry, guys. >> reporter: and evidence of what it took to keep them going. >> you can see the needle there. and there are a whole bunch of vials. this is diazepam.
it's normally used to calm people down. also used to treat pain. it's also evidence that isis was really up against it here. they felt the need to inject themselves, whether it was to calm themselves down, whether it was to treat pain, but it's a sign of how much pressure they were under. >> reporter: men and women have spent years on the front lines in a war that offers no rest, no respite. >> i'm not on a mission to like murder anyone. we just defend to help these people. but if a member of isis was in this room right now with all of us, what chance would he give you or you or me? none. >> reporter: when we come back, we meet the brides of isis and the countless families now caught in the crossfire. and one soldier paying the ultima y moderate to severe crohn's disease,... ...i kept looking for ways to manage my symptoms. i thought i was doing okay... then it hit me... ...managing was all i was doing. when i told my doctor,... ...i learned humira is for people who still have
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>> announcer: this special edition of "nightline," "war on isis: retaking raqqa," continues. the syrian city of raqqa has known little but war for four years. it bears the scars of the battles fought here. first came the brutal dictatorship of the assad regime. then isis. i was in northern syria four years ago when the extremists began to take control. >> this is an isis group. islamic state of iraq and syria. they're setting up checkpoints. and the worst thing about driving around is you're never sure what lies around the next corner. >> reporter: civilians have had to face this kind of fear every single day for the last four years.
since this war began millions of syrians have fled into neighboring countries and further, to europe. creating one of the biggest humanitarian crises of this century. and the exodus continues. this is a camp outside raqqa. where families come for aid. homeless, hungry, and afraid. just take a look at these people here. all of them have lost their homes, and dthis is what they'r they're left with. after days on the road they have just this to eat, some tomatoes, chilies, a little bit of falafel. all of them have a single bag of possessions. they don't know what the future holds. fathers, brothers, husbands. so many have gone.
hayam's son fled isis only to be captured by the regime. what the lady's saying is this is her son. he had fled the city to get away from isis and was captured by the syrian regime. he's now in sednaya prison, notorious for abuse, torture and worse. but even those who made it to safety are angry at years of occupation and oppression. what is your message to everyone who's fighting in this country? to the syrian regime, to isis, to the americans, to the coalition. what do you want them to do? >> reporter: the u.s.-led air campaign uses drones and warplanes to target isis, but the militants often hide among civilians. human rights groups say ongoing
air strikes in iraq and syria have taken the lives of thousands of innocents. this is what liberation from the hell of isis looks like for some. desperate to shed any reminder of their oppression. for men that means cutting beards they had to grow long. for women it's burning clothes they were forced to wear. but not everyone in this camp is now free. inside the camp there's a separate section for isis brides. as we approach, we see a convoy of intelligence agents here to question them. these are the women who came to syria to marry the militants. >> you were born there? in bayern, munich? landzot. >> reporter: they were hesitant to speak with us at first. >> this is okay.
>> reporter: nadia was born in germany and traveled to syria to marry a marine she met on facebook. he was an isis fighter. >> people at home, they will look at you and say why did you come to syria? why did you marry an isis fighter? >> reporter: she says her family drove her away after forcing her into an arranged marriage, so she was looking for a way out. >> i make a big mistake. . >> reporter: she claims she didn't know what isis was or how brutal it could be. you must have seen they were cutting people's heads off, they were killing people. >> no, no, no. i don't see anything. i stay only at home. i don't -- i don't have real friends. i am only a housewife. i have three babies. i am a --
>> reporter: like many isis brides her future and her children's future are in limbo. her babies have no passports. this war has so many victims. people like christian and sozdan are fighters driven to be on the front lines in what they see as a virtuous struggle. and the stakes are too great now to quit. what happens when this war against isis is over? do you see a time of peace? >> translator: yes. i believe there will be peace soon. >> reporter: sozdan was willing to sacrifice everything for that peace, and in the end she did. just hours after we left her on the streets of raqqa, sozdar was
killed with nine of her comrades. another day, another funeral. grief upon grief. but this time it's sozdar's face on the coffin. sometimes bravery alone isn't enough. remember the name sozdar. she's been fighting isis for her homeland and for america. for "nightline" ian pannell in raqqa, syria. >> sometimes bravery alone is not enough. profound sentiment. our thanks to ian and his team for shedding light on the story of raqqa. we'll be right back. it's time for a getaway. the lincoln summer invitation is on. now get our best offers of the season. on the agile mkc. on the versatile midsize lincoln mkx. or go where summer takes you in the exhilarating mkz. the lincoln summer invitation sales event. ask about complimentary pick up & delivery servicing.
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the war in syria has raged on for more than six years now. it's claiming so many victims. those who could not escape. those who were left behind. those who are risking their lives to stand and fight. it was gandhi who said "bravery is not a quality of the body. it is of the soul." thank you for watching abc news. and as always, we're online at abcnews.com and our "nightline"
facebook page. thanks for the company, america. good night. >> welcome, everybody. it's a very special day here at the show because our contestants aren't just here to get rich; they're trying to win enough cash to send a special person in their life on an amazing vacation that they very much need and deserve. so stay right where you are. from bally's las vegas, it's getaway week on "who wants to be a millionaire." [dramatic music] ♪ [cheers and applause]
welcome to the show. it is getaway week here on "who wants to be a millionaire." [cheers and applause] today's returning contestant is a registered nurse and veteran of the u.s. air force who is here on getaway week to thank her best friend for always standing by her side. from glendale, arizona, please welcome back barb hudak. [cheers and applause] welcome back, barb. >> thank you. [dramatic music] ♪ [cheers and applause] >> welcome back. you're in the middle of a great game, and actually, it's a great place to be in the game because you're at that threshold. you just won your getaway for your friend. >> yes, yes. exciting. got it. >> so that's in the bag. congratulations on that. >> thank you. >> so you served our country in the air force. >> i did. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. thank you. thank you. [cheers and applause] >> you're at $5,000. that money is safe. what are you thinking about doing with the money? >> so the money, when i get the million, i'm gonna set up a part-- >> iik