Islamic State used US-made anti-tank missiles near Palmyra

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 IdlibAl Nusrah Front video showcases more American-made TOW missilesAl 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:



Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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  • mike merlo says:

    very cool. This brings new meaning to the expression “toe-to-toe.” Am looking forward to dueling ‘TOWs’ between the Iraqi’s & ISIS/ISIL

  • Editor says:

    May i suggest a Truthfull headline…
    “ISIS used Hillary Clinton State Department Anti-Tank Missiles near Palmyra”

    Let us see your stance

  • nope says:

    Animals.. Filthy rotten animals.

  • david says:

    This video was absolutely sickening. How is the entire planet not stomping their barbarian guts out? I already know why the middle east countries can’t pull their s**t together. Or do we just let them wipe eachother out for awhile? I don’t see the upside to letting ISIS gain more and more strength. Perhaps we are waiting for a broader confrontation with the actual root aggressor: Russia via Iran

  • James says:

    You would think that if they were smart they would have some kind of a contingency (or, back-up) plan just in case these kinds of weapons (as well as US made vehicles) end up in the wrong hands. One possible way to do so would be to embed a GPS tracking device or to at least come up with some kind of a back-up procedure where at least these weapons or vehicles could be disabled or made more difficult to operate.

    Now, I realize that (at least to some) with what’s already ‘in the pipeline’ it might be too late or difficult to alter. However, they could sure as heck modify future productions.

  • Oberron says:

    The joke making the rounds of Twitter is that Obama should first check with IS Logistics Command to make sure they got space in their arsenals for the weapons he sends. Because he is sending so many weapons to their hands they can’t guard it all and have to blow some of it up due to lack of space. IS also asks Obama stop sending M1A1s to them as they can’t maintain them and they don’t make good SVBIEDs, they want more Humvees and T-72s if he can swing them though.

    This war would be funny if it weren’t for all the destruction following it.

  • jwm says:


    or Supplied by Obama?

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    Some say the obama regime doesn’t have a clear strategy when it comes to finding terrorist. At least part of it, to me, is as clear as these pictures. The unclear part, for me, is who does the regime consider to be the enemy?

  • James says:

    You say, “toe-to-toe”? Hey Mike, that’s a good one ! That’s just hilarious ! Why heck, just imagine, their over there blowing each other up with the weapons we gave them. Now, what in the world could be wrong with that?

    On a more serious note, now that Iran and their agents are on the ‘receiving end’ of those IED’s, maybe we should lend a ‘helping hand’. I wonder what kind of intel we could glean by doing that.

  • mike merlo says:

    @ James

    I guess as long as the US sees fit to keep handing over ‘Hardware’ to the Iraqi Central Government ‘we’ can expect to keep ‘seeing’ US ‘Hardware’ winding up in the hands of ISIS/ISIL. So I guess that’s a “helping hand.” I’m also would could probably get some sneeze’s & burp’s of intel on all the players. Undoubtedly the Iranian’s are getting their paws on US ‘Hardware’ & I’m sure it won’t be long, if it already hasn’t happened, will start ‘seeing’ Iranian ‘Hardware’ in the hands of ISIS/ISIL. What a mess

  • Tony says:

    I for one am not as outraged as others here seem to be. I saw this coming years ago, nobody wanted to do anything about it. Fine. Then suffer the consequences we shall.

  • johann says:

    Bush broke Iraq, which allowed the fermentation and the explosion of extremisms to exist in the region. How conveniently so many easily want to forget all that. Assad is a Baathist, like Hussain. They are dictators. But they maintained stability, iron hands. without them you have this mess. Bush pulled the cork and the apocalypse is upon us.

  • Chris says:

    Yes Johan, and Hitler started WWII. The question is, what are we going to do about it. The upside to Bush was that he took action. This is in contrast the obsession with inaction that Obama has. It appears to me that Obama is more of a friend to ISIS than we can ever imagine. He won’t lead, he won’t follow, and he won’t act. Negotiating with terrorists…that encourages kidnappings. These ISIS scumbags should constantly be looking to the sky for a load of ordinance that is always on the way.

  • paulo romero says:

    ‘US Made’ implies that one of the Sunni Arab ‘US Allies’ or Turkey bought and paid for this hardware then gave it to either the FSA, Al Nusrah or even Isis or whoever else they felt like. Who knows what weapons flow to whom there? The worst case is one of these babies being used in an Isis attack in mainland Europe. Sunni Arab extremism is the biggest threat we’re facing. First Al Qaeda, now Isis!


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