ISIS is turning US Humvees into Iraq’s worst nightmare

In an ironic twist of fate, more than two thirds of the Humvees that the US government supplied to Iraq to fight terrorists has ended up in the hands of ISIS.

And the militant group has not wasted any time in converting those vehicles into one of its most deadly and nightmarish tools, Sean D. Naylor reports for Foreign Policy. 

According to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, ISIS has in its control approximately 2,300 armoured US Humvees. The majority of those vehicles were seized after ISIS overran Mosul in June 2014.

These vehicles were then sent back over the border to Syria to help ISIS solidify its foothold there, as well as being used in further attacks against Iraqi forces. The Kurds are now concerned that the same will happen to them.

The presence of armoured Humvees in the hands of ISIS is ample cause for concern: The Humvees were specifically created by the US to be able to carry high amounts of weight and sustain small arms fire — qualities that ISIS has found makes the vehicles perfect for suicide bombings. 

“There’s a simple reason the militants are using Humvees and other armoured vehicles as rolling bombs,” Naylor reports. “Their protective armoured plating prevents defenders from killing the trucks’ drivers before the militants can detonate their loads, while the vehicles’ capacity to carry enormous amounts of weight means the Islamic State can sometimes pack in a ton of explosives.” 

ISIS has used these bomb-laden Humvees in waves of suicide bombings across both Syria and Iraq, targeting strategic locations varying from Syrian military bases to the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi, which fell to the militants at the end of May. 

According to The Soufan Group, ISIS used upward of 30 car bombs in its Ramadi offensive. Many of these were the uparmored US Humvees and at least some of those bombs were large enough to level an entire city block. 

“There is little defence against a multi-ton 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.” 

Beijij isis iraq
In this file photo taken Thursday, June 19, 2014, Islamic State group militants stand with a captured Iraqi army Humvee at a checkpoint outside Beiji refinery, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq. Reuters

These Humvee suicide bombs are large and powerful enough to plow through static Iraqi defensive positions before detonating. Attacks such as these drastically lower the moral of Iraqi troops and make defensive positions almost impossible to hold without specialised anti-tank weaponry.

And, as ISIS has over 2,000 of these Humvees in its arsenal, the nightmare of uparmored suicide bombings is unlikely to end anytime in the near future. 

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