The Islamic State has released photographs from its offensive in the eastern Syrian city of Hasakah. Two of the photos detail the use of the US-made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile.
The current offensive in Hasakah is happening concurrently with an offensive in Kobane in northern Syria, and a renewed push at the Deir al Zour airbase. The assaults come after Kurdish forces made significant gains in the northern Syrian province of Raqqah, considered the “capital” of the Islamic State. Over 100 people, many of them civilians, have been killed in the assaults. (For more information, see LWJ report, Islamic State attacks Kobane, Hasakah, and Deir al Zour.)
Photos released from the battle showcase the spoils gained in the fighting. Several crates of ammunition are seen to have been captured from the regime, as well as several vehicles. Other photos show dead regime soldiers, but the images are too graphic to be published by The Long War Journal. Other images highlight actual fighting, including the two showing the use of the TOW missiles.
This is not the first time the jihadist group has used the US system. Earlier this month, the Islamic State publicized the use of the missiles during the capture of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. 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 TOWs used in Palmyra and Hasakah were 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 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.
Photos showing the use of TOW’s in Hasakah: