(Reuters) Islamic State militants seen last year with a captured Iraqi army Humvee at a checkpoint outside Beiji refinery.
More than two-thirds of the Humvees the US supplied to Iraq to fight terrorists have ended up in the hands of Islamic State militants.
And the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh, has not wasted any time in converting those vehicles into one of its deadliest and most nightmarish tools: suicide car bombs.
According to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, ISIS controls about 2,300 armored US Humvees. Most of those vehicles were seized after ISIS overran Mosul in June 2014.
In addition to being used in further attacks against Iraqi forces, these vehicles were sent over the border to Syria to help ISIS solidify its foothold there.
The Humvees were specifically created by the US to be able to carry heavy loads and to sustain small-arms fire — qualities ISIS has found make the vehicles perfect for suicide bombings.
“There’s a simple reason the militants are using Humvees and other armored vehicles as rolling bombs,” Sean D. Naylor reports for Foreign Policy. “Their protective armored 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 including Syrian military bases and the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi, which fell to the militants at the end of May. The Kurds are increasingly concerned that they will face a wave as well.
According to The Soufan Group, ISIS used more than 30 car bombs in its Ramadi offensive. Many of these involved armored US Humvees, and some of the bombs were large enough to level an entire city block.
“There is little defense against a multiton car bomb; there is none against multiple such car bombs … the Islamic State is able to overwhelm once-thought-formidable static defenses 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.”
These Humvee suicide bombs are large and powerful enough to plow through static Iraqi defensive positions before detonating. Attacks such as these dramatically lower the moral of Iraqi troops and make defensive positions almost impossible to hold without specialized antitank weaponry.
And as ISIS has more than 2,000 of these Humvees in its arsenal, the nightmare of armored suicide bombings is unlikely to end