The Islamic State, formerly ISIS, has captured a large amount of U.S. weapons in Iraq.
In addition to combat ground vehicles and artillery previously acquired from the Iraqi military, the new trove taken form U.S. bases includes more than 50 155mm M-198 artillery batteries and 4,000 PKC machine guns.
“The booty could help ISIL transform into a military,” an official told World Tribune.
The additional weapons added to the IS arsenal were reported earlier this month in a Central Command review submitted to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The M-198 supports a variety of munitions, including high explosive shells containing razor-sharp fragments dispersed at extreme velocities. The howitzer also uses artillery rounds that release anti-personnel mines and Copperhead anti-armor artillery deployed against high-value targets such as tanks and fortifications. The M-198 has a range of up to 25 miles.
“The assessment is that ISIL has also taken plenty of shells for the howitzers,” the official added.
“They shouldn’t have too much trouble shelling large area targets like a city if they have sufficient ammo,” Jeremy Binnie, an analyst for British military consultancy HIS Janes, told McClatchy earlier this month.
The PKC machine gun is a Soviet-era belt-fed Kalashnikov PK. The PKS version can fire 650 rounds per minute and the PKMT 800 rounds per minute. PKC is the Cyrillic spelling for the PKS.
The new cache of weapons add weight to the IS claim it has the ability to march on Baghdad. Since June the terrorist army has overrun towns and villages in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad.
IS has threatened to attack and destroy Shia Muslim holy sites in the southern Iraq cities of Karbala and Najaf. It has destroyed Christian and other holy sites in northern Iraq.
“Continue your march as the battle is not yet raging,” ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani purportedly instructed in an audio recording posted in June on the group’s media website. “It will rage in Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf. So be ready for it.”
“Do not concede territory gained to the Shia unless they walk over your dead bodies to retrieve it,” al-Adnani continued. “March towards Baghdad. The Shiʿa are a disgraced people. God forbid that they become victorious over you. How can they when they are polytheists. Don’t stop until you reach Baghdad and Kerbala. Be prepared! Iraq will transform into a living hell for the Shia and other heretic.”
The acquisition of the M-198 makes the prospect of transforming Shia strongholds into a “living hell” a distinct possibility.