Gauging Branch Firepower: Islamic State Groups Across Asia Pledge Allegiance to New Leader
A Review of Imagery Published by IS in Iraq and Syria, IS-Khurasan, IS-Pakistan, IS-Yemen, IS-India, IS-Lebanon, IS-Sinai, ISEAP
Things are difficult for the various Islamic State (IS) branches in Asia, but the groups covered in this analysis remain steadfast and persistent in their devotion to the cause and efforts to overcome internal issues and external pressures. Further, the Islamic State’s leadership power remains primarily concentrated in Iraq/Syria. This was again evidenced by the global jihadist reaction following the official IS spokesman's announcement on November 31 that leader Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Quraishi had died in Syria and Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Quraishi would take his place. Official IS branches throughout Asia and Africa pledged their allegiance with many other pro-IS groups and individual supporters around the world doing the same.
Militant Wire now offers regularly published research and analysis accessible to paid subscribers. Recent exclusive articles include:
• Manufacturing the Revolution: Weapons and Explosives Craft-Produced by Myanmar's Anti-Junta Fighters
• Communist Guerrillas Ambush Philippine Soldiers Reportedly Conducting Disaster Relief Operations
• MW Monitoring: ISKP Deepens Collaboration with Halummu Translation Outlet; Pro-Islamic State Al-Saqri Foundation for Military Sciences Resurfaces
• Weapons of the Turkish Black Market
• Accelerationist Neo-Nazi Propaganda Group Releases New Documentary, "White Terror"
• Analysis: Possible Islamic State-Inspired Attack in Grozny Comes Amidst Surge in Anti-Russia Jihadist Propaganda
• MW Monitoring: Islamic State Calls for “The Bleeding of Christians”; IS Celebrates History of Mozambique Branch; ISKP's Tajik Media Publishes Booklet Aiming to Recruit Taliban Fighters
• An Investigation into Rising Tajik Islamic State Groups Recruiting Central Asians to Fight in Afghanistan
• The Life and Death of Asadullah al-Urgenchi: Islamic State Khurasan Eulogizes Influential Uzbek Ideologue
IS Group Pledges and Their Firepower
Examining the arsenals of the Islamic State’s various organizations throughout the Middle East and South Asia, we find that 7.62x39mm AK variants, 7.62x54mmR PK variants, and RPG/Type 69 rocket-propelled grenade launchers are frequently used (especially in Iraq and Syria). In addition to these common weapons, there are various other noteworthy arms that have appeared in the hands of IS jihadis.
Croatian VHS-2 variant rifles have long been used by IS in Iraq. These firearms are mostly seized from Iraqi Federal Police, largely as a result of assaults and ambushes. Although not quite rare, the VHS-2 variants are still interesting to find in this theatre.
AKS-74U carbines are well-known “status weapons” among jihadist groups and have been venerated among Islamist militants since the days of Osama Bin Laden when he was seen with an AKS-74U across his lap or strapped around his shoulder in video communiques. The AKS-74Us found in Iraq today likely came from Syria.
Occasionally IS fighters in the Middle East are seen brandishing 7.62x39mm Czechoslovak vz. 58 rifles. These firearms are sold on the black market much cheaper than most AK variants.
Additionally, the M16A2 and M16A4 assault rifles are among the weapons used by IS guerillas, along with more modern M4(A1) carbines. These weapons are usually seized from the Iraqi security forces.
7.62x54mmR Bulgarian Arsenal MG-1M general-purpose machine guns are another interesting weapon that is less-than-common but still seen in the hands of IS militants operating in the Middle East. These weapons are both seized from the security forces and purchased on or at firearms markets.
M16 variants found in Syria (photos above show M16A1 and M16A2) are much less numerous than in Iraq. These weapons can be smuggled from neighboring countries or seized from groups such as the US-supplied Kurdish YPG.
The 5.45x39mm AK-74 and its variants (AK-74M, AKS-74U) are also among the relatively more modern weapons used by the group. Just like in Iraq, the AKS-74U carbine, which is mostly considered a status weapon, is also used by IS militants in Syria. Not surprisingly and in stark contrast to M16 variants, the AK-74 variants are a more common weapon in Syria than in Iraq, which is to be expected since many of the AK-74 rifles originate in Syria.
The RPK-74 light machine gun (LMG) is another of the weapons used by ISIS in Syria. This LMG is chambered 5.45x39mm like the AK-74. In the above photo, the fighter’s RPK is loaded with a 45-round magazine, and he is seen with comrades carrying AK-74s loaded with the same magazines.
The militants also use at least one “technical,” or civilian vehicle with a mounted weapon, armed with a 23mm ZU-23-2 autocannon. Though intended as an anti-aircraft gun, when used as an anti-personnel weapon the ZU-23-2 provides heavy firepower to highly mobile units of IS fighters. It is likely that this particular autocannon was captured from the Syrian Arab Army.
In the above photo, five militants are equipped with various pistols (Glock 19 Gen 3, TT-33, etc.) and are wearing explosive belts. The cell in the photo is very likely operating within YPG/SDF-controlled areas. Explosive belts also appear to have UZRGM fuzes. UZRGMs are usually taken from Soviet hand grenades such as the RGD-5 and F-1.
Afghanistan (Khurasan Province)
The M24 SWS is one of the weapons supplied by the US to the Afghan National Army (ANA). Even before the Taliban reclaimed power in 2021, these weapons had been used by various non-state groups both inside and outside Afghanistan. One of these groups is the Islamic State’s Khurasan Province (ISKP) in Afghanistan.
Other weapons from ANA stocks are the M16 and M4(A1) rifles. These rifles became widespread even in neighboring countries, especially after the collapse of the previous Afghan government. Some of these AKM pattern rifles are equipped with add-ons like under-barrel grenade launchers (UBGL) such as the GP-25. Although both AKM rifles and GP-25 pattern UBGLs are common in the region, the setup remains noteworthy.
Another unique AKM-type rifle is the Romanian Pistol Mitralieră model 1965 (PM art. 65). While these firearms are not uncommon in the region, they are not used by ISKP as often as Soviet or Chinese AK variants.
In addition to the PM md. 65 rifle, the Romanian PSL (Puşca Semiautomată 7.62 mm cu Lunetă) designated marksman rifle (DMR) also makes appearances. They are chambered in 7.62x54mmR like SVD-derivative DMRs.
Another weapon of European origin found in the hands of IS fighters is the Bulgarian Arsenal OGi-7MA projectile, which was also among other arms supplied to the Afghan National Army. Over time, the proliferation of this particular projectile spread and it can now be found throughout the region.
In the video released by ISKP in addition to the photos, it is possible to see a militant carrying a 7.62x39mm Hungarian AMD-65 assault rifle. The origin of this weapon, like many others, is the weaponry of Afghan National Army.
The weapons used by IS-Pakistan militants are considered very standard. In the photo below, fighters are seen brandishing common 7.62x39mm AK variants (AKM, Type 56, Type 3 AK-47), a PKM machine gun, and a Chinese Type 69 RPG launcher with a PG-7V/Type 69-1 projectile.
In addition to these, an M16A4 assault rifle is also seen in the hands of a fighter. This rifle was originally sourced from ex-Afghan National Army stocks in Afghanistan, as previously mentioned.
Other photos show two possibly different urban cells. One of these cells is armed with an AKM rifle and what appears to be a Beretta M9 pistol. The M9 pistol may have been sourced from Afghanistan like the M16A4.
Another militant is seen holding a Sig P250-pattern pistol. This pistol is most likely one of the unoriginal, regionally produced weapons in Khyber (which are rather common in the region).
Overall, the arsenal of the Islamic State in Yemen (IS-Y) is much more standard than what is found in other regions. AKM(S) pattern rifles, PKM-type machine guns (possibly Bulgarian Arsenal MG-M1s), and RPG-7 with PG-7M projectiles are among the weapons often used by militants. As is always the case, there are small arms that stand out among these IS cadres.
The first rather unique armament here is the Type 1 AKS-47 rifle, which appears to be equipped with a rifle-grenade adapter. The Type 1 AKS-47 rifle is an early model of AK variants and is not often seen in Yemen. Although not so rare, the weapon's presence in the IS-Y militants' arsenal is nonetheless remarkable.
In addition, a militant in the above photo is seen carrying an AK-103 pattern assault rifle. But the origin of this rifle is not clear. There are AK-103 pattern rifles from various sources in the region (weapons seized from Saudi-backed forces, copies of AK-103s sent by Iran, and AK-103 copies produced in Yemen with modifications of AKM pattern rifles, etc.).
Additionally, several cells in India are among the larger groups that have pledged allegiance to IS. However, these militants do not appear to have any weapons except an axe and a knife.
Compared to photos released in previous years, it appears that Islamic State cells in India have experienced a significant loss in access to weapons and overall military capability.
Various cells in Lebanon are among the groups that have pledged allegiance to the new ISIS Leader. The fact that militants and cells in Lebanon have been silent and asleep for a while makes these photos important.
It seems that militants mostly use 7.62x39mm common AK rifles: AKM pattern rifles, Chinese Type 56-1 assault rifle (with underfolding stock) and a Type 3 AKS-47 rifle with locally shortened barrel.
It is also seen that the militants are armed with various pistols. Among these weapons, a possible CZ 75B and Glock 19 Gen 3 are also seen.
Although the militants' weapons are standard for the Region. However, the presence of the cells in Lebanon and the number of armed militants in these cells is rather noteable.
In general, it is seen that ISEAP (Islamic State - East Asia Province), which operates in the Philippines, also uses regionally standard weapons.
Mostly M16A1 rifles (Colt 603 and Colt 613P), M16A1 carbines (Colt 653 and Colt 653P) and M14 rifles are seen. Variants of Colt 613P and Colt 653P guns, M16A1 rifles and carbines manufactured in the Philippines by Eliscto Tools. Appearences of these weapons (except markings) are almost identical to Colt 603 and Colt 653.
In addition the militants are carrying various M4-pattern carbines. One of them these carbines appears to be customized as well.
Remington R4 carbines are also among the weapons often captured by militants from AFP. It looks very similar to the M4 in appearance. It can be distinguished from the M4 by minor differences (like the handguards).
M203 under-barrel grenade launchers are also frequently used by armed groups in the region, including ISEAP. They are mounted on AR-15 platforms such as M16, R4 etc...