ISIS Using Explosives-rigged Drones to Kill Foreign Soldiers

Militant groups like Hezbollah and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have learned how to weaponize surveillance drones and use them against each other and foreign forces, adding a new twist to Syria’s civil war, a U.S. military official and others say.

A video belonging to an al Qaeda offshoot, Jund al-Aqsa, purportedly shows a drone landing on Syrian military barracks. In another video, small explosives purportedly dropped by the Iran-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah target the Sunni militant group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front.

In the first reported instance of Western forces being targeted with a drone, the French government confirmed Wednesday that two of the country’s special operations troops were injured by an ISIS drone rigged with explosives in northern Iraq, where they were operating alongside Kurdish Peshmerga. Two of the Peshmerga fighters were killed in the attack.

A U.S. military official, who spoke anonymously because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said the U.S. military is aware of the development. Commanders have warned troops to take cover if they see what they might have once dismissed as a surveillance drone, he said.

The head of the Airwars project, which tracks the international air war in Iraq, Syria and Libya, said the weaponized drones are clumsy but will scare people.

“There are a million ways you can weaponize drones – fire rockets, strap things in and crash them,” Chris Woods said. He added: “This is the stuff everyone has been terrified about for years, and now it’s a reality.”

The U.S. military official couldn’t immediately authenticate the videos in question, adding that most of the incidents they are aware of involved weaponized drones that simply crash into their targets. But another former senior U.S. military official who viewed the videos said there was nothing to suggest they were fake.

A number of militant groups in the Middle East, including ISIS, Jund al-Aqsa and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, as well as Hezbollah and Hamas, have all released videos indicating that they have surveillance and reconnaissance drones. Syrian anti-government rebels and militias loyal to President Bashar Assad were also flying cheap quad- and hexacopters as early as 2014 to spy on each other.

The surveillance drones allowed those groups to collect data on enemy bases, battlefield positioning and weaponry and improve targeting.

The extremist group ISIS launched a sophisticated propaganda video in 2014, “The Clanging of the Swords, Part 4,” boasting about its capture of the Iraqi city of Fallujah. The video opens with drone footage over the western Iraqi city before cutting to violent ground footage depicting its advance across Iraq.

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SOURCE: CBS News