To the detriment of everywhere that ISIS has established a presence, the militant group has seemingly perfected the deadly and devastating use of suicide belts and car bombs.
ISIS employs these explosives on public targets as varied as police checkpoints, mosques, prisons, markets, and restaurants in order to cause mass casualties and spread as much discord and fear as possible.
“[The car bombs] were works of art,” a Baghdad police captain named Safar told Der Spiegel. “They were so sophisticated that they destroyed everything; there was nothing left of the car and nothing to investigate how the explosive charge was assembled.”
The organisation and implementation of car bombings in Baghdad before July 2014 were the handiwork of a single ISIS militant known as Abu Abdullah. Abdullah is one of the few high-ranking ISIS officials to ever have been captured alive.
Currently housed in maximum security prison in Baghdad, Abdullah has reportedly provided the Iraqi officials some measure of information about how ISIS operates in order to delay his own execution.
“For car bombs, we used C4 plastic explosives and explosives out of artillery shells,” Abdullah told Spiegel from an interrogation chamber in Baghdad. “But for suicide belts, I mostly drilled open the shells of anti-aircraft guns, the effect of the powder was more intense. Then I prepared the belts and vests in different sizes.”
As a head logician for ISIS, Abdullah never selected recruits for the operations — that was the work of a separate department within the organisation.
Instead, he was focused solely upon creating the explosives, scouting locations, and delivering the would-be bombers to the proper places at the proper time. The overriding goal of Abdullah’s bombings were to terrorize the Shiite population of Baghdad until they either converted to Sunnism or would abandon living in the city.
Among possible bombing locations, Abdullah made sure to target “[p]olice checkpoints, markets, mosques — but only Shiite ones.”
Aside from smaller suicide belt and vest bombs and car bombs intended to terrorize Shiite civilians, ISIS has also perfected the use of multiton truck and Humvee bombs as military weapons. Among the group’s favourite tactics are filling a stolen armoured US-Humvees to decimate static defences of the Iraqi Security Forces.
ISIS has used these bomb-laden Humvees in waves of suicide bombings across both Syria and Iraq, targeting strategic locations including Syrian military bases and the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi, which fell to the militants at the end of May.
According to The Soufan Group, ISIS used more than 30 car bombs in its Ramadi offensive. Many of these involved armoured US Humvees, and some of the bombs were large enough to level an entire city block.
“There is little defence against a multiton car bomb; there is none against multiple such car bombs … the Islamic State is able to overwhelm once-thought-formidable static defences through a calculated and concentrated use of suicide bombers,” The Soufan Group notes. “The Islamic State has neither a shortage of such explosives nor a shortage of volunteers eager to partake in suicide attacks.”
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