In Depth

Islamic State killer drones prompt fears of future attacks abroad

Experts divided on how 'weapons of war' might be used outside Iraq and Syria

Islamic State militants are using killer drones to carry out air strikes in Iraq, prompting concerns they might one day use the machines as weapons to target other parts of the world, including Europe.

IS claims to have launched 37 drone strikes in northern Iraq since 3 February, ten of which have been confirmed by media outlets in the country, reports the Washington Times.

Most were in east Mosul, while others were reported at least 100 miles south of the city.

At the moment, the drones have a two-mile range and can carry around a pound of explosives, says the newspaper.

However, former Jordanian Air Force general Mamoun Abu Nowar, an Iraq war analyst, says they could one day cause panic in places such as London, Paris or Washington, DC.

"Drones are portable, easy to buy from commercial stores and very attractive to terrorists," he said. "It is likely that we will see in the future use of these drones as weapons on crowds or high-value targets.

"We have seen them land near the White House and we have seen them taking close pictures of important places around the world. The Federal Aviation Agency cannot stop drones and their operators if they intend to be use them against crowds armed with a chemical agent. They will terrify people."

Consumer drones have become "weapons of war", wrote David Hambling for the BBC last year, claiming IS had been using the off-the-shelf devices for two years to film propaganda videos, scout targets on surveillance missions and guide armoured truck bombs.

"Now such drones may be more than spies. IS have started turning cheap drones into lethal guided missiles by fitting them with explosive charges," he said.

Colonel John Dorrian, chief spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force, told the Washington Times he was "not surprised" by the use of drones as it was "one of the few remaining courses of action available to the enemy".

However, he added that at the moment, drone attacks "have little to no strategic impact, but some propaganda value".

Ahmet Yayla, former head of Turkey's police counter-terrorism unit, also believes the potential for drone attacks outside the conflict zone is still relatively far off.

He said: "Killer drones are not likely to be used in countries outside Syria and Iraq for the near term.

"Another problem for Isis in Europe is that it is difficult to acquire hand grenades and munitions. For terrorist agents to purchase these explosives means they would risk losing their cover."

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