The Vast ISIS Arms Industry – a Major Intelligence Miss
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has developed a vast industrial complex for manufacturing explosives, bombs, mines, mortar shells and other means of demolition on a scale comparable to a national state enterprise, according to classified documents just obtained by DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and counter- terrorism sources.
Yet the world’s anti-terrorism agencies have failed to catch up with and destroy this source of jihadist terrorism’s lifeblood.
These unique documents trace the chain of supply from the countries of source for raw materials to ISIS manufacturing sites; they record the components of bombs, their type of detonator – radio- or wired – and, no less important, the manufacturing methodologies and advanced work procedures employed – up to the final product.
Some of this detailed data comes from photos and documents looted by YPG Kurdish fighters in Syria and Peshmerga forces in Iraq from captured sites.
Put together, they add up to the following comprehensive picture:
1. Most of the powerful bombs in ISIS use are produced from non-military substances, which are unregulated, inexpensive and easily obtained in ordinary shops, such as aluminum paste or ammonium nitrate for farm fertilizers.
But when used in large quantity and mixed with certain other ingredients, these innocent substances can cause big explosions with multiple casualties.
Other elements defined as dual use require export permits in some countries. Among them are proximity fuses, detonators and copper detonating cords for the mining industry.
2. The world’s intelligence and security agencies know who the suppliers of these items are, although the suppliers tend to deny selling them to any terror organization, claiming they are not obliged to check the identities of their customers or find out what use they are marking of the goods on sale. Often the customers are front-men, who purchase the bomb-making equipment for principals at some terror organization.
The list of countries from which ISIS or third parties obtain bomb-making materials and equipment is led by Turkey and includes India, Iraq, Iran, and the UAE, but also such respectable countries as Switzerland, Japan, China, and the Czech Republic.
3. Due to the easy availability and cheap price of the raw materials, ISIS can afford to purchase huge quantities and so achieve mighty blasts that sow death and horror among their enemies, be they American or Syrian troops or shoppers on a Baghdad street market.
The wholesale manufacture of the tools of death lifts ISIS out of the class of a small gang of killers or terrorists. Their industry is highly organized and efficiently managed on professional lines that would not disgrace any global military or corporate industrial enterprise. Its products are competently moved through the logistics chain from supply, engineering, manufacturing, test ranges, usage and operational training and, ultimately, distribution to the various fighting units at the different fronts.
The documents and other evidence picked up on the battlefield show that engineers are required to design two broad types of improvised explosive device (IED) – depending on their targets:
Remote control via copper detonation cable
This type is used when the exact location of a targeted vehicle or convoy can be determined. The bomb is buried and camouflaged, the detonator connected to a copper wire that is rolled a distance away to a hidden watcher, who activates it as the target goes by. This system has the advantages of precision and immunity from radio interference. Its drawback is exposure of the operator’s location.
Detonation by cellular phone
The terror organization has bought a large quantity of NOKIA 105 RM-908 cellular phones. Taking the phone apart and connecting the ringing circuit to the detonator is simple. It is rigged in this way to blow up when a call or SMS is received.
The advantage of this system is that the operator can set off the bomb from a great distance – even another country, whereas its disadvantage is that the explosion can’t be timed exactly and cell reception may be jammed in the area of targeted location.
Our sources further reveal that the ISIS arms industry is not restricted to bombs. It also manufactures shells for cannons, tanks and heavy and light mortars, bullets for machine guns and rifles, grenades and more.
When the Iraqi town of Fallujah was taken from ISIS in the summer of 2016, numerous metal workshops were revealed. They were equipped with design and drafting tools, lathes and castings, labs with an inventory of remote control and other electronic devices.
From one of the classified documents taken in Fallujah – and now in DEBKA Weekly’s hands – we learn that the Islamic State maintains an ordered, compartmentalized, efficient and bureaucratic organization in Iraq, consisting of workshops, small and large factories and foundries, logistical inventory, test ranges, and even a research and development department.
ISIS chiefs hand each facility its production targets and inventory quotas.
The most puzzling question in the light of this mass of evidence of a large-scale armaments industry run by ISIS in support of its terror machine is this: How come that none of the big, sophisticated security agencies of the world – East or West – have proved capable of cutting down – or even disrupting – any segment of its supply, financing, manufacturing, logistics, distribution, management or communications machinery?