Nearly a third of all weapons used by Isil on the battlefield were manufactured in the European Union, according to the most thorough investigation yet into how the jihadist group acquired its vast arsenal.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) militants relied heavily on guns and ammunition produced by Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Germany, a report released on Thursday by Conflict Armament Research (CAR), an international organisation that documents weapons trafficking in war zones, revealed.
The only bigger producer of weapons used by the group was found to be China.
The revelation sits uncomfortably with the EU’s effort to degrade the group’s military capacity, CAR researchers say, and highlights how easily weapons can end up in the wrong hands in “messy” conflicts.
Their 200-page report provides the most comprehensive, verified study of the group’s weapons to date, presenting an analysis of more than 40,000 items recovered from Isil forces over three years.
It concludes that international weapon supplies intended for rebel factions in the Syrian conflict ended up with Isil, “significantly augmenting the quantity and quality of weapons in its arsenal”.
In the early phase of the conflict, most of the group’s cache had been captured from Iraqi and Syrian forces. But from the end of 2015, CAR started to see another significant source – factories in Eastern Europe.
The weapons and ammunition was being manufactured in Europe, sold to the US and Saudi Arabia, and transported across the Turkish border into Syria.
They said supplies of weapons by Washington and Riyadh to Syrian opposition groups indirectly allowed Isil to obtain a substantial amount of sophisticated anti-armour ammunition and anti-tank guided weapons (ATGW), which have then been used against coalition forces they support.
“Time and again, states that seek to accomplish short-term political objectives supply weapons to groups over whom they exert little to no control,” said James Bevan, the executive director of CAR. “These weapons often gravitate to the most organised and effective rebel and insurgent forces.”