‘Inghemasiyoun’: Secret to ISIS Success: Shock Troops Who Fight to the Death

In this photo released on June 23, 2015 by a website of Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant looks through the scope of his rifle in Kirkuk, northern Iraq. Though best known for its horrific brutalities _ from its grotesque killings of captives to enslavement of women _ 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. (Militant website via AP)

The IS calls them ‘Inghemasiyoun,’ Arabic for “those who immerse themselves.” The elite shock troops are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group’s arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death, wearing explosives belts to blow themselves up among their opponents if they face defeat

BAGHDAD (AP) — Bearded and wearing bright blue bandanas, the Islamic State group’s “special forces” unit gathered around their commander just before they attacked the central Syrian town of al-Sukhna. “Victory or martyrdom,” they screamed, pledging their allegiance to God and vowing never to retreat.

“They tend to use their foreign fighters as suicide bombers. People go to the Islamic State looking to die, and the Islamic State is happy to help them.”

— Patrick Skinner, a former CIA officer who now directs special operations for The Soufan Group, a private geopolitical risk assessment company

The IS calls them “Inghemasiyoun,” Arabic for “those who immerse themselves.” The elite shock troops are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group’s arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death, wearing explosives belts to blow themselves up among their opponents if they face defeat. They are credited with many of the group’s stunning battlefield successes — including the capture of al-Sukhna in May after the scene shown in an online video released by the group.

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

In this photo released on June 23, 2015 by a website of Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant fires artillery against Syrian government forces in Hama city, Syria. Special troops called "Inghemasiyoun," Arabic for "those who immerse themselves," are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group's arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death. (Militant website via AP)

In this photo released on June 23, 2015 by a website of Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant fires artillery against Syrian government forces in Hama city, Syria. Special troops called “Inghemasiyoun,” Arabic for “those who immerse themselves,” are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group’s arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death. (Militant website via AP)

“The fighters incorporate suicide bombings as a fearsome battlefield tactic to break through lines and demoralize enemies, and they are constantly honing them to make them more effective.”

Though best known for its horrific brutalities — from its grotesque killings of captives to enslavement of women — 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 nimbly move 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 fearsome battlefield tactic to break through lines and demoralize enemies, and they are constantly honing them to make them more effective. Recently, they beefed up the front armor of the vehicles used in those attacks to prevent gunfire from killing the driver or detonating explosives prematurely.

“The group is also flush with weaponry looted from Iraqi forces that fled its blitzkrieg a year ago, when IS overtook the northern city of Mosul and other areas.”

Those strategies are being carried over into new fronts, appearing in Egypt in last week’s dramatic attack by an IS-linked militant group against the military in the Sinai Peninsula.

Andreas Krieg, a professor at King’s College London who embedded with Iraqi Kurdish fighters last fall, said IS local commanders are given leeway to operate as they see fit. They “have overall orders on strategy and are expected to come up with the most efficient ways of adapting it,” he said. The group “is very much success oriented, results oriented.” That’s a strong contrast to the rigid, inefficient and corrupt hierarchies of the Iraqi and Syrian militaries, where officers often fear taking any action without direct approval from higher up.

IS fighters are highly disciplined — swift execution is the punishment for deserting battle or falling asleep on guard duty, Iraqi officers said. The group is also flush with weaponry looted from Iraqi forces that fled its blitzkrieg a year ago, when IS overtook the northern city of Mosul and other areas. Much of the heavy weapons it holds — including artillery and tanks — have hardly been used, apparently on reserve for a future battle. Read the rest of this entry »


Egypt: we may despise the Muslim Brotherhood, but a coup is a coup

Europe and the US need to accept that the Muslim Brotherhood may be foul, but it did not abolish democracy

Anti-Morsi protesters in Tahrir square

Anti-Morsi protesters in Tahrir square in July 2013, before the Egyptian army massacres. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

When a state massacres 600 demonstrators, it is not just its own citizens it murders. It also kills the possibility of compromise. The perpetrators mean you to understand that there can be no going back. When they kill, they are well aware that they are shedding too much blood for normal politics to kick in and allow differences to be patched up and deals made.

The killers have the swagger of gangsters. “We know,” they seem to say, “that we are breaking all the basic standards of civilised behaviour. We know people will hate us until the day we die for what we have done today. But do you know what? We don’t care.”

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