By Pramod Raj Sedhain.
Islamic State (IS) has been aggressively making strategies to manipulating accessible technologies for terrorist purpose. In fact, it has been rapidly changing its terrorist phenomenon into modern form and gradually gaining its aspiration goals into operational reality which was rarely predicted or anticipated even by experts. After self-proclaimed “Caliphate” in the captured areas in Iraq and Syria, IS has seized every opportunities, innovations and technologies for terrorist cause.
IS’s use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) is not phenomenon. However, the release of their first-ever clear video showed their ability to carry and drop bombs on intended targets precisely. IS’s self proclaimed “Wilayat Ninawa” released a 38-minute video on January 24, 2016 which clearly demonstrated its capability to carry out bombs from drones. But the operational success of those strikes remains a mystery. Success of explosives equipped drones has indicated growing terrorist threat from multiple dimensions in technological fields.
The video released by IS showed they were able to accurately drop small bombs and drones on targeted Iraqi forces in Mosul. The video confirmed that IS are capable of assembling the bombs in guided drones to launch attack on pinpoint targets. IS has been able to modify drones to drop small bombs and grenades. Capabilities to fitting the airborne improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in drones have raised series alarm since the start of battles around Mosul. Since then IS has claimed over a dozen attacks from drones in Iraq & Syria.
ISF has successfully shot down most of the IS drones, if not all. The IS new video is evident that there is definitely a new kind of threat not only from their lone wolf attacks, suicide bombings, snipers, mine warfare, ambushing, body-trap or other type of attacks on the ground but also from aerial bombardment. IS has been trying to ‘weaponize’ commercial drones since 2014 despite the fact that they were not successful before.
The group never displayed its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to carry out attacks against enemies. Total success of such tactics will lead to new changing terrorist threat phenomenon in global security. IS has been widely using commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in aerial reconnaissance to visualize their attacks. But this has been the first clear evidence that they are utilizing the latest technological tools for terrorist purpose.
IS’s wider strategy and apocalyptic idea became the most superior violent global jihadi domination as well as hitting back to utilize the modern tools against their western inventors. The world has ever seen such radical jihadist movement success in modern history. IS ambition to establish worldwide Islamic caliphate and to erect current geographical borders pose a global security threat.
Ultra-brutal terrorist methods, high-level propaganda skills, Hollywood-style production, expertise on deep and dark web, using of end-to-end encryption, modern security forces equivalent cyber manual, etc are some examples of threat to modern society from modern tools used by terrorist group. Use of easy accessible drones by this terrorist outfit has demonstrated a future generation global security threat. They will be potentially much more success than the current capabilities.
So far as obtaining open sources evidence is concerned, IS does not have military-grade drone capabilities. But chances that they might develop it soon cannot be ruled out. Dealing with such modern technological advancement from terrorist groups would be the biggest problem in future. Recent drone strike video is not only a propaganda advertising for crumbling group or psychological effect but is a dangerous alarm for global security. Remotely piloted bombs on terrorist hands are gravest threats for all.
Approach of remote-controlled technology has been a very attractive tool for IS to expand their modern terrorist tactics. Technical nature of drone attacks is still unclear but t does not look like a sophisticated technological advance. This immature drone strike operational abilities could help in growing their confidence to assemble more lethal drones to provide the hope for manufacturers. This new terrorist tactic can be the most potential destructive measures for the new generation of terrorists. Latest video has a propaganda value rather than operational. However, it can be the biggest moral boost for terrorist group’s ambition. IS operatives and supporters have extensively praised and hailed this success in different online.
This could have been inspired from the U.S. military style MQ-9 predator drone, which killed their senior leaders. Since the declaration of “Caliphate”, IS has been utilizing various technological advantages in cyber with an aim to build their own drone fleet to Air Forces. Recently, Iraqi forces uncovered a secret IS workshop in Mosul where they were trying to manufacture its own fighter aircrafts.
IS has used drones to reconnaissance before attack on Syrian regime Tabqa military air base near Raqqa in August 2014. Since then, they have extensively used drones in reconnaissance missions in photography and visualization of attacks in Iraq and Syria. The IS also used drones to drop explosive devices in Syrian regime held-Deir Ezzor in November 2016. Several people were killed and wounded but that remotely-guided drone attack was ineffective to target military positions. Despite inaccuracy on targets, they successfully showed their capability in ‘weaponizing’ drones. IS’ booby-trapped drone killed 2 Peshmerga forces and wounded 2 French soldiers near Mosul city on October 2, 2016.
Modern terrorism phenomena have been rapidly changing in new forms. Terrorists are seeking armed drone to attack on advance targets without big plane and casualties. Various assessments show upcoming terrorist threats from available commercial drones. Dropping bombs by terrorist groups in future terrorist attacks would undoubtedly have devastating consequences. In January 2016, the Oxford Research Group examines various commercially available drones and concludes that such UAVs will be used in future terrorist attacks.
IS UAVs has predictable threat on reconnaissance and propaganda rather than carrying out attacks from the sky. But chances are high that it could be able to improve drone speed, ranges and mount small weapons on drones in near future. Other global terrorist groups could be interested in such ideas. So far, even it would be difficult to achieve its ambitious goals in drone field for the IS, it is high time that the concerned agencies be aware of the growing new dimension of modern terrorist threats. We can expect IS’ will likely expand it strikes in coming days.