A FORMER sewer worker from Essex has told how he took on the brutal killers of IS as a volunteer sniper in war-ravaged Syria.
Ed Nash had no military training or background when he made the decision to join the fight against the terror group.
Former sewer worker Ed Nash from Essex took on IS as a volunteer sniper in Syria[/caption]
The warzone was far removed from where Ed grew up in Essex[/caption]
It led to the most extraordinary ride of his life — and at least a dozen insurgents fell to his rifle.
Ed says: “You shouldn’t take satisfaction in killing people. But I did.
“I had this sense of absolute clarity during combat. There’s nothing like it. Killing is the ultimate thrill.”
Ed spent a year as a volunteer sniper with Kurdish militia.
Yet this is no hot-headed youth and Ed was days from his 40th birthday when he flung himself into one of the planet’s most deadly warzones.
He says he embraced the change, killing with a fascinated relish, and his story has now been turned into a book, released this week.
Ed, now 42, says: “It was never my intention to go and fight.
“I just wanted to go out and help in some way.”
At first he intended to write press releases for the Kurdish forces. But soon he was eliminating enemy fighters with a Dragunov rifle.
Ed — not his real name — says: “It became very normal very quickly.”
Ed said he joined the fight against IS because he just wanted to help in some way[/caption]
The oldest of three brothers, Ed got his first real taste of combat during the al-Hawl offensive of November 2015.
“The first day was intense,” Ed recalls. “A suicide car bomb full of explosives was coming for us.
“We were all firing at it, laying in from different angles, trying to blow it up.
“We stopped it about 400 metres away and it was one hell of a blast. Spectacular!
“There was this flash of light and you could feel the heat. It looked like an atomic bomb.”
As a wall of dust and debris hit Ed and his fellow fighters, so too did a wave of euphoria.
“I was extremely happy,” Ed says. “Everyone was elated.”
The thrills were intense — but so too were the horrors.
Everywhere he went, Ed encountered violence and bloodshed — in the Syrian towns of Kobani and Sarrin, al-Hawl, al-Shaddadi and the city of Manbij.
He says: “I saw a lot of death. I saw civilian casualties — women and children. I saw friends die.
“We found IS sex houses where they’d taken girls as slaves.
“There were mattresses all over the place, used condoms, antibiotics to treat STDs. Nooses where they’d hanged people.
“It was bad. But it reaffirms your reason to be there.”
Ed insists he never truly feared for his own safety.
He says: “Was I scared? No. It’s silly because obviously you can get killed easily.
“Once I stood up and a bullet flew straight over my head. But there was only one time when I really thought I was going to die.
Ed was once woken by a full on IS attack and had to be saved by bombs guided by the SAS[/caption]
“We were in a building and there were infantry in front of us, but overnight they’d moved.
“We didn’t know we’d become the front line but IS did. We were woken by machine guns — a full-on attack coming through the olive grove.
“Every time I shot, a wall of fire came back.”
Out of nowhere — as if in a scene from the movies — Ed and his fellow volunteer fighters were saved by bombs guided by the SAS.
Ed had previously thought of joining the army but never went though with it[/caption]
He says: “IS ran away. Quite wise, really.”
As a schoolboy, Ed flirted with the idea of joining the Army but never went through with it.
“I did all sorts,” he says of his working life. “I was a delivery driver, a removals man, I worked in the sewers. Dead-end jobs.”
Yet when the situation was “kill or be killed”, he did not hesitate.
Ed said he did not hesitate in ‘kill or be killed’ situations[/caption]
Ed vividly remembers the first time he killed a man — shooting dead an armed IS fighter.
“It was a good shot,” he says. “It was a moment. There was a flicker where I thought, ‘Wow, so this is what it’s like’.
“It was satisfying — like putting down a rabid dog. It was easy to dehumanise them.
“It sounds psychopathic and I think people will be disturbed to hear me call killing satisfying — but honestly, I would have killed more.”
Ed knew he had reached the end of the road when the Kurds he was fighting alongside instructed foreign volunteers to kill civilians.
He says: “They were taking big casualties, so they started telling us to kill entire villages. I said no.
“I went out there because I thought it was the right thing to do, so I wasn’t about to start shooting kids.
“Under pressure, it’s easier to pull a trigger than to not.
Ed knew he had reached the end of the road when the Kurds he was fighting alongside instructed foreign volunteers to kill civilians[/caption]
“But you’re the one who’s got to live with yourself.”
After a year of fighting, Ed returned home to Britain to his relieved friends and family.
He says they thought he was mad for going in the first place.
Ed, on the other hand, cannot help but yearn to return to battle.
He says: “I think anyone who’s been in combat misses it. There’s nothing like it.
Ed says he still dreams of his time in the warzone[/caption]
“It’s the ultimate thrill. Kill or be killed. I can’t compare it to sex as it’s unique. It’s the most intense experience ever.”
Single Ed has had girlfriends in the past but suspects he is not the type to settle down.
The buzz of war still occupies his thoughts — even his dreams.
Ed says: “I had a dream that I took out two IS guys with a rifle.
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But what woke me up was the satisfaction I felt. It was kind of worrying.
“I chose to go to Syria because I despise IS so intensely, so I have no regrets.
“But the sense of satisfaction doesn’t feel quite right. It’s a weird thing.”
- Desert Sniper, published by Little Brown, is out on Thursday.