Hand grenade drone adds to Is­lamic State’s ar­se­nal

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Is­lamic State group drone hov­ered in the sky over the ad­vanc­ing Iraqi forces be­fore drop­ping a grenade, the ji­hadists’ lat­est move to weaponise small off-the-shelf air­craft. Down be­low, the grenade ex­ploded on the roof of a build­ing where Iraqi po­lice forces were shel­ter­ing as they ad­vanced some 10 kilo­me­ters south of Mo­sul, the last ISheld Iraqi city. No one was in­jured, ac­cord­ing to an Iraqi of­fi­cer, but the in­ci­dent none­the­less rep­re­sents an­other es­ca­la­tion in the war of com­mer­cially avail­able drones that is play­ing out as Iraqi forces bat­tle the ji­hadists.

Mas­ters of in­ven­tion, IS ji­hadists have booby trapped house­hold ap­pli­ances and turned cars into ar­mored sui­cide bombs as they try to stymy the Iraqi forces. Now they seem to have found an­other way to try to slow the progress: weapon­is­ing the $1,000 drones that they nor­mally use to spy on their foes. “We have recorded three in­ci­dents,” po­lice Lieu­tenant Colonel Hus­sein Moayyad said. The ji­hadists ap­pear to have used an add-on-sim­i­lar to those in­tended to help fish­er­man drop their hooks far­ther out at sea-to re­lease the drone’s pay­load, Moayyad said.

They rig the grenade so the pin is pulled free when the ex­plo­sive de­vice is dropped, arm­ing it. While this at­tack was rel­a­tively prim­i­tive and-for now-pretty in­ef­fec­tive, IS drones have al­ready proved more deadly in other ways. Last month a hobby plane rigged with ex­plo­sives killed two Iraqi Kur­dish pesh­merga fight­ers and in­jured two French sol­diers. Ac­cord­ing to a US de­fense of­fi­cial, the in­ci­dent un­folded on Oc­to­ber 2 when a small plane with a sty­ro­foam body was ei­ther shot down or crashed in Ar­bil in north­ern Iraq. Two Iraqi Kur­dish pesh­merga fight­ers grabbed it and took it back to their camp to in­spect and pho­to­graph it, when it blew up.

IS is fly­ing drones to spy on Iraqi forces-so Iraqi forces are send­ing up their own de­vices to spot the en­emy as well. Moayyad watched a screen in­side a spe­cially con­verted ar­mored bank van he has turned into a mo­bile drone con­trol cen­tre. “Now I am en­ter­ing the dan­ger­ous zone, this is where Daesh is,” he said, us­ing an Ara­bic acro­nym for IS as he ma­neu­vered the drone’s re­mote con­trol to fo­cus on ji­hadist po­si­tions some five kilo­me­ters away.

Like the IS op­er­a­tion, the Iraq po­lice have also cob­bled their drone pro­gram to­gether with shop-bought equip­ment and in­ge­nu­ity. Moayyad-who has a mas­ters de­gree in com­put­ing-mod­i­fied drones bought in Dubai and Tur­key to give them greater range, longer bat­tery life and the abil­ity to film at night. When he spots en­emy move­ment, he co­or­di­nates with the Iraqi ar­tillery, air force or some­times the US-led coali­tion bom­bard­ing IS from the sky. In east­ern Mo­sul, Iraqi spe­cial forces sol­diers are us­ing drones for the same pur­pose.

“There were three car bombs com­ing out from Al-Bakr to­ward our po­si­tions that we spot­ted with our drone and hit with our tanks,” Staff Lieu­tenant Colonel Mun­tad­har Salem re­cently said, re­fer­ring to an area in the city. In to­tal, Moayyad said, the Iraqi po­lice force drones-su­pe­rior to the ones IS use-end up cost­ing some­where around $26,000. But de­spite hav­ing su­pe­ri­or­ity over the ji­hadists, he said the Iraqi forces could do with equip­ment that can let you take con­trol of un­known drones, es­pe­cially now that IS is arm­ing them.

“Maybe they could get big­ger drones,” Moayyad said. “And if they man­age to use chem­i­cal weapons on them, then this is more scary, of course.”— AFP

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