ISIS: The munitions trail

Financial Times reports: As a known arms dealer for rebels fighting Isis in his east Syrian home town, Abu Ali was sure his days were numbered when, a year ago, two jihadi commanders stepped out of their pickup truck and walked towards him.

He was baffled when they handed him a printed paper. “It read, ‘This person is permitted to buy and sell all types of weaponry inside the Islamic State,’” recalls Abu Ali. “It was even stamped ‘Mosul Centre’.”
Rather than being detained or expelled as they had feared when the jihadi group swept through eastern Syria last year, many black-market traders such as Abu Ali were courted by Isis. They were absorbed into a complex system of supply and demand that keeps the world’s richest jihadi group stocked with munitions across a self-proclaimed “caliphate” spanning half of Syria and a third of Iraq.

“They buy like mad. They buy every day: morning, afternoon and night,” says Abu Ali, who, like others who have operated inside Isis territories, asked not to be identified by his real name.

Isis seized weapons worth hundreds of millions dollars when it captured Iraq’s second city, Mosul, in the summer of 2014. Since then, in every battle that it has won, it has acquired more material. Its arsenal includes US-made Abrams tanks, M16 rifles, MK-19 40mm grenade launchers (seized from the Iraqi army) and Russian M-46 130mm field guns (taken from Syrian forces).

But dealers say despite this, there is one thing Isis still needs: ammunition. Most in demand are rounds for Kalashnikov assault rifles, medium-calibre machine guns and 14.5mm and 12.5mm anti-aircraft guns. Isis also buys rocket-propelled grenades and sniper bullets, but in smaller quantities. [Continue reading…]

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