Jeffrey Stern

The Real-Life Mad Max Who Battled ISIS in a Bulletproof BMW

7 November 2017 | Vanity Fair

The Real-Life Mad Max Who Battled ISIS in a Bulletproof BMW

The oil-rich city of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, was quiet the evening before the surprise attack by ISIS last October. On the city’s outskirts, a young Kurdish peshmerga soldier named Ako Abdulrahman parked his bulletproof BMW outside his house. The front line was far—more than 100 miles away, in Mosul, where the American-backed coalition had just launched the biggest operation yet against the Islamic State. But, in Kirkuk, there were few signs of ISIS. Soldiers traveled to fight elsewhere. The provincial governor had left to go on holiday. It was the weekend.

But before dawn on Friday, October 21, 2016, more than a hundred ISIS fighters passed through a gap in Kirkuk’s defenses and began moving, unnoticed, toward the city center. Ako Abdulrahman didn’t know it yet, but the eyes of an entire city would soon be on him and his car.

Bayerische Motoren Werke introduced its High Security line of luxury automobiles nearly 40 years ago with the philosophy that the best way to protect your cargo was to call no attention to it. A BMW assembly line in Dingolfing, Germany, was re-engineered with the special machinery needed to form ballistic-grade paneling and high-melting-point, ultra-strong metals into the shape of the company’s standard models. The cars were designed to look like any other BMW. In the days when the Baader-Meinhof gang was terrorizing wealthy capitalists, it was the perfect conveyance for an executive seeking safety and discretion.

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