Islamic State militants in northern Iraq have modern portable air defense systems that are capable of shooting down a passenger plane, Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported citing the country’s foreign intelligence agency.
According to the media report published on Sunday, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) informed the German Bundestag of the threat at a closed session last week.
The German intelligence agency said that the Islamic State(IS, formerly ISIS) militants located in northern Iraq have obtained air-defense systems from the captured military arsenal of the Syrian Army, according to the report.
The IS militants have obtained the 1970s models as well as modern man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). These light-weight surface-to-air missile systems can be fired from the shoulder and operated by one person.
“Unlike other air defense weapons, MANPADS are easy to use, barely-trained militiamen can fire the weapon accurately,” the report said, adding that the weapons are especially dangerous for landing or taking off aircrafts.
German authorities have not yet confirmed the report. Several airlines, including Austrian Airlines and Qatar Airways, still fly in the airspace over northern Iraq in control of the extremists.
Earlier several reports emerged saying that the militants in the region were in possession of MANPADs. In particular, the anti-government militants stormed the Tabqa air base in north-central Syria, which enabled them to take control of the whole Raqqa province– currently an IS stronghold – in August. The militants reportedly seized a cache of the portable surface-to-air missiles stored there. In October, there were reports by the Iraqi military that IS extremists had MANPADs in their arsenal.
The IS militants – assessed by the US as the best-funded terrorists in the world – have seized large swaths of Syria and northern Iraq and established a self-proclaimed caliphate in the Middle East.
A US-led coalition launched airstrikes targeting the militants’ positions in Syria in September. These strikes joined US air operations against the IS in Iraq which began a month earlier.
On Sunday, the US military and partner states conducted 12 airstrikes on the IS positions in Iraq, the US Central Command said. Five separate airstrikes were conducted by the US military against IS targets in Syria in the city of Kobani, US officials added.