The latest insurgency technique of using silenced handguns to kill U.S. and government forces in Iraq is discussed in two different jihadi internet forums (hanein.info, March 18; ek-ls.org, March 17). Over five days, Islamist forum participants discussed the use of silenced weapons in killing Iraqi and U.S. personnel at checkpoints and other security controls, the types of silenced handguns and accounts of successful insurgency attacks using silenced weapons.
Even though jihadis have enjoyed a freer hand in the Sunni districts of Iraq—launching terrorist attacks at security checkpoints and police stations in these areas more often than in other areas of Iraq—they still needed extensive planning before attacking fortified security installations. A typical operation involved preparing eight jihadist assailants and backup teams with up to five AK-47 assault rifles and one PKC (the Iraqi name for the Russian-made PK machine gun) to perpetrate a two-minute attack that might kill, at most, only three security personnel, due to the quick response of the well-protected security forces. According to a forum participant nicknamed “Ashiq tahat rayat al-Dola,” these attacks became costly and difficult to carry out as the security situation improved in Iraq with an increasing number of Sunnis supporting government policies. Hence, says al-Dola, jihadis switched to a new technique using silenced pistols. “Today’s jihadist operations against security controls have become a lot easier than yesterday…. An attack requires two jihadis at the most with one pistol of the smallest caliber,” says al-Dola. The jihadi walks past the checkpoint like any other citizen and assassinates the closest security personnel with a 7mm silenced pistol, giving the assailant enough time to retreat before any response from the security forces. Another chatter nicknamed “Shamil al-Baghdadi” reaffirmed al-Dola’s posting, saying he knew of a jihadist cell of about 10 jihadis with a decade of experience in Afghanistan that operated in Khan Bani Saad in Diyala. In four months the cell carried out over 20 attacks on security stations using silenced guns and swords.
Many other Islamist forum chatters showed interest in the silenced gun attacks and contributed to the subject with long and short comments. A forum participant nicknamed “Obaid al-Baghdadi” recounted an attack by two jihadis on an Iraqi military barracks in the al-Saidia district of Baghdad where silenced weapons were used prior to an unnoticed withdrawal. “They perpetrated the operation quietly. The [other Iraqi soldiers] didn’t find out the two were shot until lunchtime. May God grant the two jihadis heaven and beautiful virgins,” says al-Baghdadi.
Responding to complaints about the inconvenient size of the silencers, a few chatters posted links to small, lightweight integral suppressors such as the U.S.-made Gemtech Oasis-R. Moreover, jihadis are inventing their own designs for small-sized silencers with fewer baffles in the barrels. Further information is found in the Mawsu’at al-I’dad (Encyclopedia of Preparation), still one of the main sources for jihadist weapon-manufacturing know-how. The fourth edition of the manual includes a video clip showing how to manufacture silencers.
The switch from mass attacks to assassinations using silenced weapons is an indication that jihadis are responding to an improved security situation in Iraq following the ongoing U.S. training of Iraqi security forces and the creation of tribal security support units such as the Awakening Councils. Nevertheless, the use of silenced weapons against security and military personnel reflects the adaptability and determination of the insurgents and poses a new challenge for Iraqi government and Coalition forces.