ISIS' enemies go Boom
- Updating an ancient tactic, Islamic State militants — as well as rebels in Syria — are digging virtually undetectable tunnels, then planting bombs to blow up buildings and other targets.
(Defense One) - The tunnel bomb, a deadly modern riff on an ancient tactic, is emerging as a potent new weapon. Several dozen have been detonated in Syria, while ISIS used them to take the Iraqi city of Ramadi, according to Pentagon officials and documents.
The concept is simple: dig a tunnel long enough to reach under your target, emplace explosives, and hit the detonator. Altogether, at least 45 such bombs have exploded in the past two years in the two countries, according to JIEDDO, the Pentagon organization that seeks ways to defeat improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Most have been in Syria, but U.S. officials say ISISis building “a network of bunkers, trenches and tunnels” in Iraq.
“This below the surface attack is particularly destructive to buildings and is appearing increasingly in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria,” a recent JIEDDObriefing says.
Tunnels have been used for some time by Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza, generally as passages to smuggle weapons and launch dismounted attacks against Israel. Now their use is spreading, and extending to direct attacks.
“The use of tunnels for IEDs and other purposes will continue to provide a low risk strategic advantage to extremist organizations and therefore requires continued development efforts and fielding of effective mitigation techniques,”JIEDDO says.
Since this type of attack is so effective and destructive, ISISfrequently posts videos of the explosions on YouTube and propaganda websites. The videos show buildings collapsing as massive plumes of smoke and debris fly hundreds of feet into the air.
“As part of an information operations campaign, these attacks are documented and widely proliferated via social media which increases the likelihood of migration to other conflict areas or adoption by other extremist organizations on a worldwide basis,” JIEDDO says.
In Iraq, ISIS used tunnel attacks to devastating effect in their assault on Ramadi. On March 11, ISIS forces detonated a tunnel bomb under an Iraqi army headquarters, killing an estimated 22 people. The blast consumed seven tons of explosives in an 800-foot long tunnel that took two months to dig, according to the JIEDDO briefing.
On March 15, a second tunnel bomb was used to attack Iraqi Security Forces. The city fell two months later.
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