In a new video released by the Islamic State, the jihadist group shows the capture of the ancient city of Palmyra, also known as Tadmur in Arabic. During the video, at least one US-made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile is seen being used against Syrian regime troops near the city.
The Islamic State took full control of the city after a weeklong offensive two weeks ago. At least 462 civilians, 241 government troops, and 150 Islamic State fighters were killed in the fighting in and around Palmyra since May 13, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The jihadist group also took over several nearby towns and the Jazal oil field. [For more on this, see LWJ report, Islamic State seizes Syrian city of Palmyra.]
This is not the first time the Islamic State has shown with TOWs. Last December, the jihadist group also published photos showing its forces using TOW missiles against Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces in the Damascus countryside. The United States has supplied several FSA groups with TOW missiles, which have sometimes fallen into the hands of jihadist groups or have been used to assist jihadist groups. The TOW used in Palmyra was likely captured from battles with the FSA in other parts of Syria.
At least one TOW missile was used by the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, in that group’s offensive on Wadi al Daif in the northwestern province of Idlib. The al Qaeda branch also publicized the usage of TOWs during its capture of Idlib city. [For more on this, see LWJ reports Al Nusrah Front uses American-made anti-tank missile in Idlib, Al Nusrah Front video showcases more American-made TOW missiles, Al Qaeda and allies form coalition to battle Syrian regime in Idlib.]
Last October, many FSA groups assisted the Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al Sham, an al Qaeda ally, in southern Syria with TOWs. Soon after, the now-defunct Hazm Movement posted a video of its fighters utilizing TOWs in support of Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar (JMA) in Aleppo. The Chechen group considers itself to be the Syrian branch of the Caucasus Emirate, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist organization that operates in the North Caucasus. Jaish al Islam, a member of the Islamic Front coalition, which heavily fights alongside Al Nusrah, has also recently published a video of its forces using a TOW in the Qalamoon mountains near Lebanon. Many FSA groups taking part in the current offensive in Idlib province have also published footage of TOWs being used to support such groups as Al Nusrah, JMA, Ahrar al Sham, and many other al Qaeda-linked jihadist groups.
The United States plans to send more than 1,000 anti-tank missiles to Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to be used in the fight against the Islamic State. The State Department said in a press briefing that these weapons are being supplied to help mitigate the effects of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDS), or suicide car bombs, which is a main component of the Islamic State’s arsenal. However, this move runs the risk of having the jihadist group capture some of these weapons as they fight the Iraqi military. The Islamic State was recently able to capture a large amount of US-weaponry after fighting the ISF near Fallujah, as well as a plethora of Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missiles near Baiji.
Photos of the usage of TOW missiles near Palmyra: