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ISIS uses suicidal shock troops, atrocities to gain battlefield edge

An ISIS sniper looks for targets in Kirkuk, northern Iraq. Photo: AP

BAGHDAD –€” They are the Islamic State group’s elite shock troops. Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate cities of Iraq and Syria, unleash mayhem and fight to the death, wearing explosives belts to blow themselves up among their opponents if they face defeat.

IS calls them “Inghemasiyoun,” Arabic for “those who immerse themselves,” a sort of special forces unit parallel to its regular forces that is credited with many of the group’s stunning battlefield successes. A recent online video from the group showed a unit preparing to launch an eventually successful attack on the central Syrian town of al-Sukhna. “Victory or martyrdom,” the fighters, wearing blue bandanas, scream in a circle around their commander, pledging their allegiance to God and vowing never to retreat.

“They cause chaos and then their main ground offensive begins,” said Redur Khalil, spokesman for the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which have led a string of military successes against the IS in Syria.

Though best known for its horrific brutalities, the Islamic State group has proved to be a highly organized and flexible fighting force, according to senior Iraqi military and intelligence officials and Syrian Kurdish commanders on the front lines.

Its tactics are often creative, whether it’s using a sandstorm as cover for an assault or a lone sniper tying himself to the top of a palm tree to pick off troops below. Its forces switch between conventional and guerrilla warfare, using the latter to wear down their opponents before massed fighters backed by armored vehicles, Humvees and sometimes even artillery move to take over territory. The fighters incorporate suicide bombings as a battlefield tactic to break through lines and demoralize enemies, and they hone them to make them more effective. Recently, they beefed up armor of the vehicles used in those attacks to prevent gunfire from killing the driver or detonating explosives.


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