Islamic State uses improvised weapons of war in Mosul, Iraq

The Islamic State’s Ninawa province has released a 30-plus minute video promoting the jihadists’ role in the battle for Mosul, Iraq. The propaganda production is intended to buttress perceptions of the group’s capabilities, even as it loses ground in and around the city.

Still, it provides a useful overview of the so-called caliphate’s improvised weapons of war, as well as the tactics the jihadists have employed to prolong the conflict.

Screenshots from the video can be seen below.

The Islamic State has become especially adept at turning various makes and models of cars into vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs). Armor is fixed to large and small vehicles alike in order to make it more difficult for Iraqi and American forces to destroy them before they reach their target.

The US has been able to take out dozens of VBIEDs before their drivers could complete their missions. But the video showcases some of the jihadists’ more successful bombings. In one instance, one VBIED is driven into a security checkpoint and then a second snakes its way through an apartment complex until reaching the target. The footage is recorded from above, likely using small commercial-style drones, which have become a common tool for both the Islamic State and al Qaeda.

The Islamic State is unashamed of its use of children (or young adolescents) and handicapped men in suicide VBIED attacks. The youth are portrayed as “martyrs,” even though they are more accurately described as victims. The jihadists have used captured Yazidi children and others in its “martyrdom” operations.

Some, perhaps all, of the handicapped men shown operating VBIEDs were probably injured while fighting for Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s cause. So their “martyrdom” is likely more willing.

Similar to its use of VBIEDs on the ground, the Islamic State has modified drones such that they can carry and deliver a small payload from above. The Ninawa province’s video dramatizes such attacks, showing the drones hovering over their targets and then dropping their bombs. In one short scene, a jihadist mans what appears to be a control station filled with computers and screens that allow him to guide the weapons to their drop sites.

In another scene, an Islamic State member uses a game console controller to fire rockets at his foes.

The video ends with footage of various snipers hitting Iraqi personnel at some distance.

The Islamic State’s vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), with armor attached:

The so-called caliphate uses children and young adolescents in its VBIED operations:

Small drones are regularly used to record battle footage, such as coordinated VBIED bombings:

In addition to turning vehicles into car bombs, the Islamic State has made prolific use of small, modified drones. The new video shows the drones targeting specific locations:

One Islamic State member uses the remote control from a video game console to fire rockets at their intended target:

Another Islamic State jihadist mans a control center, from which he can guide the group’s improvised weapons of war:

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Arjuna says:

    Thinking enemy. Very creative and adaptive.
    This is why you hit the Mosques:
    “Apart from the industrial areas, IS also converted the Grand Mosque of Mosul into a VBIED workshop. It’s a logical place for a VBIED workshop, as the religious symbolism lowers the risk of it being targeted in an air strike.”

  • irebukeu says:

    When you say ” This is why you hit the mosques” what force would be considered the “you” in that statement. This operation is being carried out by the Iraqis and any targeting involving mosques should be decided by them. There could be 100 reasons why you might let a VBIED workshop continue to operate. I might guess at 12. Infidels bombing mosques at the first opportunity is the last thing in my opinion, that muslims of the middle east should see. It’s time for American and all western forces in Iraq to exit the stage. There is nothing good that can come of their presence. More debt at best and at worst more death and debt.

    It was pretty obvious what the solution to IS was- PRESSURE EVERYWHERE by the people they were pressing on. They (IS) can’t handle the logistics of continuous fighting on multiple fronts. They are folding up in Mosul pretty quick. It will be all over soon. I see the SDF has been reported to have reached the Euphrates river east of Raqqa (snip), capturing a water treatment plant there. IS is heading back to the shadows. It’s time to step back from the Iraqi-Syrian stage in my opinion. Not our fight. I guess I’m tired of paying to train the Shia army.

    I enjoy your comments and look forward to them and look forward to exchanging opinions, especially where we may disagree.

  • roc says:

    No point in taking out the grand mosque at this stage of the war. The Iraqi army will have it soon enough. Great propaganda value can be obtained by showing the exact place the caliphate was declared now being in Iraqi hands. I would say the argument can be made the caliphate is dissolved at that point.

  • safuan says:

    Dear irebukeu. You look like an exhausted us army officer. I guess u hv been in iraq many yrs trying to undo ‘insurgent’ but instead getting worst. I’m a muslim n wanted to share with u what todays mideast n world event means to an eye of a faithful muslim. I guess u r fair enough to consider this. Prophecy says todays events shows Messiah is coming soon. My advice, get out of this conflict. Let somebody else handle if he/she dare. It’s unwinnable. Tks.

  • tuffsnotenuff says:

    Surround-and-annihilate does seem to be working here despite the very large scale perimeter presented by DAESH in and around Mosul. As a technical matter you have to be impressed with IA and Popular forces discipline maintaining well ordered front lines.

    When Qassem Soleimani came in to help with the planning process, we have to hope that someone was taking notes. He has served as an invited guest and consultant for the governments of Iraq and Syria and as well with the Kurds through a dozen major battles beginning in 2012. For taking out the likes of DAESH — a combo of irregular forces and death cult suicide attackers — he has to be Top Gun for the officer corps going forward. Success matters.

    Compare/contrast with the Perpetual War crowd’s failures all through the Iraq occupation. Pushing around irregulars/suicides proved useless. That’s always going to be useless.

    P.S. note: There’s a claim going around that Soleimani is on a U.N. hit list. The claim gets tied to a document: General Assembly doc “S/2016/589” — that does have a photo of the general. There’s nothing in that document negative about him, no hit list, no prohibition against international travel. United States embargoes on Iranian movement went away with the nuclear deal.


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