Islamic State’s military power has often been ridiculed by politicians and pundits. Israeli commentators used to talk about the SUV army when they spoke about ISIS, and President Obama recently said that Islamic State is a handful of people that is in the possession of “not wildly sophisticated weapons.”
On Tuesday, however, alarming reports were coming in of new types of sophisticated and deadly weapons that are now in the possession of ISIS.
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First. Fars News in Iran reported that Iraqi forces had shot down a drone that was used by Islamic State in the area west of al-Hawesh near the city of Samarra in Iraq. The Iranian news site didn’t provide more details about the downing of the drone.
Then, there was a report by the British news site The Mirror about a new ISIS missile that was capable of bringing down an airplane. The Mirror cited activists in Syria who reported that Western defectors to ISIS with experience in engineering had “managed to successfully create the devastating weapon.”
Two ISIS terrorists from Denmark and Russia are said to have been behind the construction of what could be a crude crew-launched SAM rocket that can shoot down an airplane at an altitude of between 10,000 and 12,000 feet.
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It could be that the two ISIS engineers have cobbled together components from a launcher of the arsenals of either the Assad regime or that of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and that the rockets were obtained in a similar way or were bought on the black market.
This development could have dire consequences for civilian air traffic in the region. ISIS has already brought down a Russian civilian airplane above the Sinai desert in Egypt by detonating a crude bomb that was smuggled aboard the plane in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh.
Originally, experts dismissed ISIS’ claim that it had brought down the plane; but Russian and French teams that investigated the crash of the plane concluded (despite Egyptian denials) that a bomb had exploded aboard the jet after it reached an altitude of 15,000 feet. The bomb was probably detonated by remote control.
The possession of SAM missiles would make it much easier for ISIS to launch terrorist attacks against civilian planes.
The Mirror quoted the Syrian activist group ‘Raqqa Is Being Silently Slaughtered’ (RIBSS), which claimed that ISIS wants to carry out more sophisticated terrorist attacks on France, America and Russia.
The group said it had seen the truck that carried the surface to air missile and also reported that Islamic State has installed radar in its capital of Raqqa. The rocket launcher was reportedly developed in an Iraqi weapon factory and later transferred to Raqqa in Syria, where it was connected to the local radar system, RIBSS reported.
Even more terrifying news about new ISIS weapons came from a member of the Turkish opposition. According to the Russian news agency RT, the high-ranking Turkish official Erem Erdem reported during an interview on Monday that ISIS had received a shipment of the deadly nerve gas Sarin. The components of the highly toxic gas reached Islamic State from Turkey and were smuggled “under the nose of the Turkish government,” Erdem told RT during the interview.
“The equipment came through Turkey, and the weapon was assembled in Syria,” said Erdem. “We have incriminating evidence, we know that the material was brought through Turkey and from here was transported to the organization,” he added.
Sarin gas was also used by the Assad regime against opponents during the four-year-old civil war. On August 21, 2013, Assad troops used the deadly chemical agent during a massive missile attack on rebel positions in Goutha, a suburb of Damascus, killing roughly 1500 people. The attack almost led to U.S. intervention in the Syrian war, but President Obama preferred a negotiated solution with Russia about the destruction of Assad’s chemical weapon stockpiles.
The report about the Turkish delivery of Sarin components to ISIS has not yet been confirmed by other members of the Turkish opposition. Erem Erdem claims that the Turkish government is trying to cover up the story because of possible negative consequences for the Turkish request to become a member of the European Union.