Companies from 20 countries are involved in the supply chain of components that end up in the explosives used by the Islamic State. The terror group relies on commercially available components for most of its bombs, with some parts coming from as far away as the United States and Japan, according to a report released by a London-based arms research group.
Conflict Armament Research (CAR) says most components —such as chemicals and detonators — come from companies in Turkey and Iraq, which may not know the parts are being bought by the extremists. Many components are also used for civilian purposes, such as mining, making them relatively easy to get.
The European Union-mandated study showed that 51 companies from countries including Turkey, Brazil, and the United States produced, sold or received the more than 700 components used by Islamic State to build improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
IEDs are now being produced on a “quasi-industrial scale” by the militant group, which uses both industrial components that are regulated and widely available equipment such as fertiliser chemicals and mobile phones, according to CAR which undertook the 20-month study.
The researchers traced the origins of over 700 components recovered from IS bomb factories and unexploded bombs. The parts they were able to fully document had all been legally acquired.
The most commonly used explosive was made with ammonium nitrate, a common fertilizer. The group’s mobile phone of choice, used for remote detonation, is the Nokia 105, the report said.
Most components come from companies in Turkey and Iraq, probably because of their close proximity to the IS group’s self-proclaimed caliphate. But the procurement network stretches to 20 countries, with some parts originating as far away as the United States, Brazil, China and Japan.
Turkish companies act most often the intermediary. With 13 companies involved in the supply chain, Turkey is the most important choke point for components used in the manufacture of IEDs by IS forces. These components include chemical precursors, containers, detonating cord, cables, and wires, which Turkish companies either manufactured or sold in Turkey before IS forces acquired them in Iraq and Syria.
Among the 13 Turkish companies identified, eight are intermediaries that have re-transferred components produced in Brazil, China, India, the Netherlands, Romania, and the Russian Federation. The companies serve the Turkish market and most of them do not export goods to Iraq or Syria. Evidence gathered by CAR suggests that IS forces, or intermediaries acting on their behalf, acquired the components in Turkey and subsequently transferred them to Iraq and Syria.
Thus, aluminium mixed with fertilizer is one of the most common forms of homemade explosive used by IS forces in Iraq and Syria.
The labels affixed to several drums of aluminium paste found at the location indicated production in August and October 2014 by three different manufacturers: Aldoro, Brazil; Alba Aluminiu, Romania; and Sunrise Aluminium Pigments, China. The three companies sold the aluminium paste to three Turkish companies based in Istanbul: Gültaş Kimya, Marikem Kimyevi ve Endüstriyel Ürünler (hereafter ‘Marikem’), and Metkim.
It’s unclear whether local distributors, often small companies, knew where their products ended up. The chain of custody is not always documented in full, as some of the producers and distributors did not respond to requests for information, the report said.
The sale of these cheap and readily available parts, some of which are not subject to government export licences, is far less scrutinised and regulated than the transfer of weapons.
The study found that Islamic State is able to acquire some components in as a little as a month after their lawful supply to firms in the region, suggestion a lack of oversight in the supply chain.
The Turkish government refused to cooperate with CAR’s investigation so the group was not able to determine the efficacy of Ankara’s regulations regarding the tracking of components.
CAR gained access to the components through partners including the Washington-backed Kurdish YPG in Syria, the Iraqi Federal Police, the Kurdistan Region Security Council and forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Companies from EU member countries Romania, the Netherlands, Austria and Czech Republic were also involved, the report found. (with AP, Reuters)