Where innocent ingredients are used to produce the most deadly weapons
Islamic State car bomb hits Mosul, Iraqi army pushes offensive1:04
Islamic State militants detonate a car bomb in the Tahrir district of Eastern Mosul as the elite Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service forces attempt to expand their foothold in the city. Diane Hodges reports.
- November 20th 2016
- 18 days ago
Tools of the trade inside the ISIS car bomb factory. Picture: Chris Shearer
THE sacks and drums strewn about the workshop look harmless enough. Potassium. Sugar. Some food additives. But this is no ordinary suburban garage.
This is a makeshift factory where Islamic State produce one of its favourite and most deadly weapons: Car bombs.
In the parlance of war they are known as VBIEDs: vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. Since the beginning of operation to recapture Mosul, once Iraq’s second largest city, IS has launched more than 600 such weapons at Iraqi troops.
This particular building was discovered on the grounds of the Church of Mar Gorgis (St George) in Qaraqosh, a Christian town near Mosul.
Its location was neither an accident nor a matter of simple convenience. Coalition air strikes try to avoid schools, hospitals, mosques and churches given their importance to the community.
By setting up their workshop mere metres from the church itself, the IS fighters knew they would be able to build their engines of death up until the last moment.
It appears that they did. Hastily abandoned, the tools of the trade lie around the building as if waiting for the workers to return. Scoops that might once have portioned out pistachios or flour in a local shop sit in metal tubs of chemical powder.
Scoops sit in tubs of chemical powder at the car bomb factory in Mosul. Picture: Chris ShearerSource:Supplied
Chemical drums and piles of chemicals left abandoned in the church. Picture: Chris ShearerSource:Supplied
Wicked brews cake the inside of plastic bowls. Scales lie discarded on the floor beneath where two recipes for explosives have been painted on the wall. Each one calls for thousands of kilograms of raw materials.
“This is the biggest factory that I’ve seen in this area,” says Colonel Jawad Habib, a member of the local Christian militia tasked with keeping Qaraqosh secure. He says that on top of car bombs, the factory also produced mortars, antipersonnel mines and anti-armour bombs.
“It was significant. Huge. They could produce a lot of IEDs because there were a huge amount of chemicals to make bombs.”
The inside of the church where car bombs were made. Picture: Chris ShearerSource:Supplied
It’s almost shocking in its simplicity. Once mixed, the chemicals were transferred to various containers, depending on their ultimate use. A car would be chosen, generally a civilian vehicle, sometimes a chemical tanker for larger targets. The car would be loaded with the explosives and then either left at a specific point or driven by a fanatic at military positions, destined to detonate one way or the other.
Colonel Habib says he’s seen nothing like it.
“You see smoke, hear a huge roar like a nuclear bomb is exploding, see dust in the sky,” he explains. “You can’t imagine it. After each explosion you’ll see much destruction. A truck-sized one will destroy a whole block.”
A car bomb explodes next to Iraqi special forces armoured vehicles as they advance toward territory held by the Islamic State group in Mosul on November 16. Picture: AP Photo/Felipe DanaSource:AP
Less than one hundred metres from the factory is evidence of the damage done by this factory’s hateful merchandise.
A day before Qaraqosh was liberated, a car bomb made in the factory exploded on the street within sight of the church’s front gates. The blast devastated buildings on either side of the road, pulverising concrete and crumpling metal.
The damage to both sides of the street after the car bomb exploded is massive. Picture: Chris ShearerSource:Supplied
Iraqi policeman Nasir Behnam was the first of his family to enter Qaraqosh and had the painful task of telling his uncle that the blast had destroyed his home.
“My uncle asked me to check his home,” he says. “How could I tell him? My heart was broken. He lost his wife last year and this year he lost his home.”
The remnants of a building where the huge car bomb went off. Picture: Chris ShearerSource:Supplied
For those who have lost so much, the news that the factory is out of action may give little cause for celebration. Its car bombs may be no more, but the IEDs produced there could still be hidden throughout their town, the mortars still in the hands of IS fighters.
And only a few kilometres away in IS held Mosul, factories like this one carry on with their work.
One of the car bomb’s victims. A boy who was injured when one exploded in Mosul on November 25. Picture: AP Photo/Felipe DanaSource:AP
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