Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Growing fears of IS use of weaponised drones

Growing fears of IS use of weaponised drones

The Mosul battle in Iraq has seen the Islamic State group increasingly resort to weaponised drones, which Western governments fear could lead to a new type of attack at home.

France issued an internal note to its security forces last week warning that "this threat is to be taken into account nationwide" and ordering any drone be treated as a "suspicious package".

The first record of a deadly IS drone attack was in October when two Iraqi Kurdish fighters were killed and two French special forces soldiers wounded.

The device had been booby-trapped and did its damage on the ground when forces approached it after it landed.

"The use of drones by terrorist and insurgent forces is a growing issue of international concern," James Bevan, executive director of the Conflict Armament Research NGO, wrote in a recent report.

Western countries have seen an unprecedented wave of attacks perpetrated or inspired by IS and the new airborne threat is giving chills to security agencies.

"It's a threat we're looking into, especially with all those who will return from Iraq and Syria with bags of battle experience," a French government official told AFP.

Some countries, especially those with large numbers of nationals among IS's foreign fighter contingent such as France or Belgium, worry that attacks on home soil will spike after the collapse of the jihadists' "caliphate".

Drones are ubiquitous on the front lines of the battle for IS bastion Mosul, which Iraqi forces launched on October 17.

The jihadists have used them for some time for reconnaissance missions, just like government forces have, but they have more recently tried to modify them.

In mid-November an AFP team on Mosul's southern front saw a small commercial drone, of the kind that will fly off the shelves in the runup to Christmas, drop a grenade on a federal police position.