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Gauging Branch Firepower: African Islamic State Groups Pledge Allegiance to New Leader
A Weapons Analysis of ISWAP, IS-Sahel, IS-Somalia, ISCAP, IS-Mozambique, IS-Tunisia and IS-Libya
The African continent has seen tremendous growth in the spread and activities of Islamic State (IS) branches in recent years. These groups vary in the depth of their manpower and respective weapons arsenals.
Some indicators of this can be observed in the photos that poured out after the Islamic State’s official spokesman announced, on November 31, the death of leader Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Quraishi and named his successor. In relatively short order, IS groups across Africa began to issue their pledges of allegiance to Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Quraishi, the man now at the helm of the organization, its trans-continental network of branches, and worldwide movement.
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A Review of IS Branch Pledges and Their Weapons
As expected, the Islamic State’s weaponry includes a very high amount of AK variant rifles and PK variant machine guns. However, there are also various rare and noteworthy weapons. In this regard, the most noteworthy variety of weapons is found in the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), which is mostly and heavily organized in Nigeria.
The first of these weapons is the Israeli IWI Negev NG-5 light machine gun which is chambered in 5.56x45mm. The gun also appears to be used with STANAG magazines. This weapon was probably smuggled into Nigeria from neighboring Chad.
Another uncommon machine gun is the "M60" which is chambered in NATO 7.62x51mm. This weapon is also used by other militant groups such as JaS in the region. Previously, in Borno/Yobe regions, ISWAP militants seized M60 machine guns from the security forces. However, it is less frequently in the hands of armed groups in the region compared to PK variants.
The last of this type to note in Nigeria is the Heckler & Koch HK21E general-purpose machine gun (GPMG) which is chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO as well. These weapons, like the M60s, are occasionally seized from the Nigerian Army and are a much rarer GPMG variant than the PK variants.
Although the prevalence of RPG-7 variants has been mentioned before, the rarer projectiles also appear to be used with these launchers, unlike the PG-7V variants.
RHEF-7MA (indicated in red) and RTB-7MA (indicated in blue) are less common in the region compared to the PG-7V variants. Both of these are produced by "Arsenal" in Bulgaria. ISWAP captured these projectiles from the Nigerian Army as a result of clashes with security forces.
Nigeria also has a variety of notable assault rifles alongside the standard 7.62x39mm AKM variants.
The first of these weapons, the AK-74 rifles captured from the Special Forces (SOF), are chambered in 5.45x39mm. Zenitco B-10M handguards and Romanian/DDR-style wire side-folding stocks are equipped with these rifles.
In addition, some militants are seen carrying Polish Beryl M762 assault rifles which are chambered in 7.62x39mm. These weapons are likewise captured from the Nigerian Army from time to time by ISWAP.
Continuing, it is possible to see some militants carrying Serbian Zastava M21 S assault rifles, chambered in 5.56x45mm. These guns are not captured from the Nigerian Army unlike the other rifles mentioned. Their first origin is in Cameroon. It is smuggled into Nigeria in various ways. In the past years, JaS militants used Zastava M21 S rifles smuggled from Cameroon.
ISWAP has heavy armored vehicles and firepower in Nigeria, and in the published allegiance photographs, it is possible to see the militants driving the Turkish Otokar Cobra Infantry mobility vehicle, which was seized from the Nigerian Army. These vehicles also have various heavy machine guns, including the NSV heavy machine gun.
In addition to these troops, a cell located in "Central Nigeria" has also published Bay’ah photos as well.
A militant of the cell in “Central Nigeria” appears to be holding a pistol. The pistol appears to be a Chinese Norinco NP-22 or a similar pistol.
In addition to ISWAP in Nigeria, IS's Sahel branch (which operates in Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Benin) publishes allegiance photos. Although Sahel Province's weapons are not considered rare, they still seem to have high firepower. As expected, the militants are armed with AK variants and PK/Type 80 GPMGs.
However, to add a short note on AK-103 type rifles: militants in the region use both AK-103 type rifles seized from the Mali army and AK-103-2 rifles smuggled from Libya. Yet, it is difficult to say anything definitive about these variants in the pictures. In addition, many heavy weapons, including Kord, are also used by IS - Sahel.
As expected, Islamic State's Somalia branch also uses mostly Chinese-made weapons (Type 56 variant rifles, Type 80 machine guns, and Type 69 RPG Launchers), although some rarer items can be noted.
The first of these weapons is the Serbian Zastava M91 sniper rifle, chambered in 7.62x54mmR. This weapon is, very likely, among the weapons smuggled from Yemen to Somalia. M91 sniper rifles are uncommon weapons in the region, even when the weapons used by other groups are examined.
In addition, it is possible to see at least one militant carrying a G3A3 rifle. G3A3 rifles are among the weapons frequently used by rival and Al-Qaeda branch Al-Shabaab in the region. Mostly G3 rifles captured from the Somali National Army are used. Although, IS has very few of these weapons.
The "Nafez" projectile is an Iran-manufactured copy of the PG-7VL. Iranian weapons and ammunition are common in Africa, and they are found in many regions. These weapons can have different sources from time to time. For the "Nafez" projectile in this example, the likely source is Yemen. On the right of Nafez, Bulgarian Arsenal MG and MG-M1 machine guns are visible.
The photos included one city cell consisting of five militants in Somalia. The militants of this cell possess various pistols as well as the M67 FRAG grenade.
In the photos published by IS - Central Africa Province (ISCAP), which mostly operates in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the weapon variety seems to be relatively simple compared to other regions.
Militants use the Bulgarian Arsenal MG-1M machine gun which are usually taken from the army after clashes. Still, GOs are not too commonly obtained by ISCAP.
The Type 54 HMG can be briefly described as the Chinese copy of the DShK. It is a very common weapon in Africa. ISCAP can also be seen using this weapon from time to time. The only HMG seen in the new "Bay'ah" photoset seems to be the Type 54.
Militants can also be seen carrying the OG-7 pattern projectile with the RPG-7 Launcher. Although these projectiles are not uncommon in the region, they are not used very often.
On the whole, ISCAP does not possess a wide variety of weapons on the photoset, as stated earlier.
It is possible to see that IS militants organized in Mozambique generally use standard weapons.
Many of the militants carry common 7.62x39mm AKM(S) and Chinese Type 56 (including 56-1, 56-2 variants) assault rifles.
In addition, 7.62x54mmR PKM / Type 80 GPMG derivatives and at least one Chinese 12.7x108mm heavy machine gun are also seen in the hands of militants.
In short, it can be easily stated that the IS organization in Mozambique carries standard and common weapons in these photographs.
In addition, a cell consisting of 4 militants organized in Tunisia is among the groups that have pledged allegiance as well. However, the militants in Tunisia do not appear to have any weapons.
It is possible to see that the militants who published allegiance photos from Libya also carry standard 7.62x39mm AKM pattern assault rifles.
In general, the origin of 3 of the AKM-pattern weapons can be specified. These are Romanian PM md. 65, Chinese Type 56-1, East German MPi-KM.
AKM variants, including these weapons, are extremely common in the region. In addition, compared to the old photographs, it is seen that the militants in Libya suffered from a serious loss of weapons and power.