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IRAQ - SYRIA

Amnesty slams 'irresponsible' weapons flows that have armed IS

The Islamic State armed group has seized enough weapons in Iraq to arm up to 50,000 fighters, according to an Amnesty International report released 8 December 2015.
The Islamic State armed group has seized enough weapons in Iraq to arm up to 50,000 fighters, according to an Amnesty International report released 8 December 2015. Reuters

The Islamic State (IS) armed group has been able to build a military arsenal and expand its territory due to a decades-long flow of weapons into Iraq, rights group Amnesty International said Tuesday. The findings appear to support the evidence of leaked documents showing the IS is consolidating its military and political influence in the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.

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For its report Taking stock: the arming of the Islamic State, Amnesty International has analysed thousands of videos and images to determine that the Islamist movement has amassed an arsenal containing over 100 types of weapons ranging from handguns  to anti-tank missiles and armoured personnel carriers.

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While the IS began seriously amassing such weapons its conquest of the city of Mosul in June 2014 – in which Amnesty says it allegedly seized enough weapons to equip up to 50,000 fighters – the rights group blames the Islamist organisation's ability to do so on a largely unrestricted arms trade that began in Iraq in the late 1970s.

“The Islamic State’s inventory is eclectic and a result of a massive build-up of arms over decades in Iraq,” says Rasha Abdul Rahim, who works with Amnesty International as advisor on arms control, the security trade and human rights.

As she explains, the proliferation of weapons in Iraq stretches from “the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s to the US-led occupation in 2003 and its aftermath – in which weapons entered the region with very lax controls and security – and then from 2006 and onwards, when the Iraqi government was procuring massive arms from EU countries, the US, Russia and China.”

By showing these weapons have enabled the IS to carry out human rights abuses including summary killings, hostage-taking, rape and torture, AI hopes its report will make governments take account of the situation that poor regulation, lack of oversight and virtually unhindered freedom for arms exporters has created.

“Many governments are to blame for their somewhat relaxed and irresponsible approach to arms transfers to the region and it’s time for them to wake up now and make sure further proliferation does not occur,” says Rasha Abdul Rahim.

“We want governments to implement very strict transfers when they are authorising transfers, to ensure there is onsite monitoring, to ensure that the units and forces they are sending weapons to will comply with international human rights and humanitarian law, that they are capable of securely storing, transporting and keeping a record of the weapons, and having heavy oversight of training of Iraqi forces.”

Amnesty says its research can determine that the IS controls the largest arsenal of weapons on the territory it holds and suggests it will maintain its positions for the foreseeable future.

The report comes a day after the website of British newspaper The Guardian reported on documents purportedly showing how the IS intends to build a functioning state.

The document, Principles in the administration of the Islamic State, lays out plans for building government departments, a treasury and an economic programme, including a blueprint for foreign relations, a propaganda office and centralised control over oil, gas and other industries.

Taken together, the leaked document and the AI report paint a picture of a movement capable of maintaining its military force while also considering how to ensure a sustainable political future.

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