WASHINGTON – An independent arms monitoring group has collected evidence that fighters in the Mideast extremist group Islamic State are using weapons and ammunition manufactured in at least 21 countries, including China, Russia, and the U.S.
The group’s report indicates that the Islamic State’s relatively newly formed force has had little difficulty tapping into the huge pool of armaments fueling the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, supplied not only by the world’s big powers but also by up-and-coming exporters such as Sudan.
Much of the Islamic State’s arms and ammunition were captured on the battlefield, but intelligence reports have suggested that the group’s income from oil sales and other sources is high enough to finance purchases of additional weapons directly from the companies and dealers that routinely profit from strife in the Middle East.
Experts say the fact that the armaments have such disparate sources – some were even made at a major munitions plant in Missouri – provides a cautionary note as Washington prepares to undertake expanded shipments of military supplies, including small arms, to rebel groups in Syria and to a revived Iraqi army force.
The new data were collected by Conflict Armament Research, a three-year-old London-based group, which sends investigators into conflict zones to identify the types and origins of weaponry used in the fighting. Its latest report, financed by the European Union, lists the origins of more than 1,700 cartridges collected in July and August in northern Iraq and northern Syria by investigators working alongside Kurdish forces that had fought the forces of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Manufacturers in Russia and the former Soviet Union made 492 of the recovered shells, according to the report. The next-biggest country of manufacture was China, which manufactured 445 of the cartridges recovered. The third-highest supplier was the United States, with 323, the report said.