FREEDOM fighters poured into the ancient Syrian city of Raqqa yesterday to drive out IS from its last stronghold — and among them was the war’s most unlikely soldier.
British actor Michael Enright, 53, who swashbuckled opposite Johnny Depp in Pirates Of The Caribbean, gave up Hollywood to fight the terrorists.
Before the mission he said: “I will remember Manchester Arena and the two attacks in London on Westminster Bridge and at Borough Market.
“I’ll give ISIS no quarter. I won’t expect much mercy from them and I will not give them much mercy, that I can promise you.”
Michael is a Manchester lad, growing up in Moss Side before moving to Los Angeles to chase his big-screen dreams.
It means he wants a very personal revenge on the hate cult which claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb that killed 23 concert-goers at Manchester Arena in May.
He said: “The attack in Manchester especially brought a lot of emotions. I’m used to a lot of death, and terrorist attacks, but this was different, it’s my home town.
“I was heartbroken because of the age of the targets, those little girls.”
The three men who murdered eight people in the Borough attack in June also make his blood boil.
Michael revealed: “It might be a bit strange but when I heard about the attack on London Bridge I thought, ‘I wish I’d been there’.
“I’d have grabbed the nearest knife. I don’t know which way it would have gone but at least I could have gone for them.
“It just absolutely hardened my heart. Every single day now when there’s an operation here in Syria against ISIS I’m the first to put my hand up to volunteer.”
Yesterday’s entry into the terrorists’ “capital” of Raqqa by Western-backed fighters was made possible after coalition jets blasted two holes into the city’s 1,300-year-old walls.
It marks a heady and critical moment in the fight against Islamic State, as many of its leaders are holed up there.
Once they are driven out into the desert, they will be far easier targets for coalition bombers.
The coalition, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, is dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia, which Michael joined in 2015.
He had zero off-screen military experience and it was only on the day before his departure for the war zone that he held a Kalashnikov rifle for the first time.
But he was a quick learner and was soon regarded as such a threat that IS has put a £116,000 bounty on his head.
Clearly, it was a role he was born to play — and one that was far more satisfying than any of his Hollywood parts.
Michael was just 19 when he moved to Los Angeles, after catching the acting bug when he won a role in a pantomime at Butlins in Skegness.
In Hollywood he worked steadily in small bit-parts in movies ranging from 2009 Robin Williams flick Old Dogs, 2010’s Knight And Day starring Tom Cruise and, of course, Pirates Of the Caribbean. He played a seafarer in the 2006 release Dead Man’s Chest.
He has popped up in TV shows including Agents of Shield, Law and Order, Cold Case and CSI.
He also hob-nobbed with A-listers at Hollywood parties, but Michael always felt his life should have a higher purpose.
After the September 11 attacks in 2001 he wanted to join the US Army, but friends talked him out of it.
He explained: “The reason I came out here is because I saw James Foley — an innocent American man — with his hands tied behind his back and having his head cut off.
“What made it worse was the fact that the coward that did it was an Englishman.
“I decided I wanted to do something about it, I wasn’t sure what, and I saw Jihadi John killing others.
“Then I heard about the Yazidis (a religious group based mostly in Iraq). ISIS came and killed the men, killed the little boys and turned their widows and daughters into gang rape victims then sold them.
“I’d only ever read about evil like that in history books.”
Michael got in touch with the Kurdish rebel force, the YPG, after a pal in the SAS hooked him up.
Soon after he flew to Iraq and volunteered to become a soldier and was even given a new name, Mustafa Rojava.
He said: “I wanted to fight with the Kurds because they didn’t seem to run.”
New recruits were put through fitness training — in which he came last — but he had better luck with his Kalashnikov.
He was soon outgunning an ex US Marine and a former French Legionnaire in target practice.
Michael wanted to fight with Kurdish fighters[/caption]
Despite this, at first other volunteers gave him a hard time, not expecting a British actor to brave a real war.
One even sneered that Michael was mentally unstable, suicidal, and only in Syria to do research for a movie script.
But he shook off the criticism with bravery in battle, which he discovered is nothing like it is portrayed by Hollywood.
He explained: “As an actor I played roles before where I was a SWAT team policeman going in to a heavy situation.
“It looks very intense and you’re all up for it. In actual fact it’s not like that at all.
“You just don’t freak out about it until you’re literally right on top of a fight.”
For the past few weeks, as the YPG pushed towards Raqqa, he has seen comrades fall.
He counts himself lucky that his own worst injury has been losing the hearing in his right ear. It happened when a pal fired a rocket launcher right next to him earlier this year.
The Brit said: “I’m p***ed because I can’t hear out my right ear, but that’s nothing. At least I’ve got my limbs.”
His only other gripes are about having nothing to do in between the battles — and the food.
He said: “It’s a bit boring when you’re not fighting. It’s the same for soldiers the world over. Everything is waiting until you go to fight.
“Playing cards aren’t allowed because the Syrians are religious and believe they encourage gambling.
“We always sleep on the floor on mats. You get used to it. When I went home it was difficult to sleep on a bed.
“And the food is not good. For breakfast it’s always bread, these big, chapati-style pieces, cheese and marmalade, and their version of peanut butter.
Michael Enright is an actor turned ISIS-fighter[/caption]
“For lunch we have rice and beans. Meat is a rarity, but we’ll have spaghetti and soups.
“But when you’re at the front it’s just bread, sardines and energy drinks. Often there’s no food. Men at the front sometimes won’t have food for two days. I’ve had to catch chickens to eat before.”
Meanwhile, he has a stark warning about the potential gruesome fate of anyone in the UK thinking of joining ISIS, also known as Daesh.
He said: “I’ve seen dead Daesh — their faces are black and bloated, sometimes their heads are in different places than their bodies because dogs have eaten them. There’s no dignity in that.
“Daesh are only tough guys when they’re fighting innocent, defenceless people. But I’ve arrested and interrogated loads of them, and when their hands are tied they become sheep.”
“I’m not going to leave until IS are gone. At which point I’ll give all the Kurds a big kiss, then go home to Manchester and give my mother a big kiss.”
HERE are some other Brits who have sacrificed their comfortable lives at home to take on IS in Syria:
KIMBERLEY TAYLOR: The 28-year-old from Lancashire turned down a place at Sandhurst Military Academy to join the fight against IS last year.
The maths undergraduate was inspired to act after a Syrian friend’s home town was ransacked by the group.
Kimberley, from Blackburn, says she is ready to die for the cause, and has been fighting around Raqqa.
She says her parents were disappointed however, when photos emerged of her smoking with the other female rebel fighters.
STEVE KERR: At 58, the oldest British volunteer in Syria. In April the Army veteran from Northampton left the UK for his third tour.
Steve is an army veteran[/caption]
He drives trucks laden with explosives, dodging snipers and suicide bombers.
Before finding his new mission in life he had served a brief jail sentence in 2004 for helping carry out a bank robbery.
MACER GIFFORD: The 29-year-old was a Tory councillor in Cambridge before joining the Kurdish rebels in 2015.
Macer is setting up a medical aid charity[/caption]
The former currency trader is now setting up a medical aid charity and has lobbied for more action by British forces.
TIM LOCKS: Formerly a bouncer and builder, the 40-year-old sold his home in Bracknell, Berks, to fund his journey to Syria in 2014.
He has vowed not to come back until IS is defeated.
Tim sold his home to fund his trip to Syria[/caption]
Last year Tim posted a photo of a Jordanian pilot who was burned alive in a cage by IS, and wrote online: “Sure, I had already made up my mind, sold my house, made arrangements and sorted my kit – but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have reservations, worries about going.
“Was I doing the right thing? Should I be trying to get involved?
“Then I watched the Jordanian pilot burnt alive. From that moment on I was totally focused, all doubt left my mind. I was determined to help rid the world of Daesh.”