Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria have been using bullets manufactured in the United States and 20 other countries, a new report from a weapons tracking research group says.
About 20 percent (323) of 1,730 cartridges recovered by Kurdish forces were made in the United States — and appear to have been taken from Iraq, according to a report published by the Conflict Armament Research group.
"IS forces appear to have acquired a large part of their current arsenal from stocks seized from, or abandoned by, Iraqi defense and security forces," the report said. The analysis represents a small sample of the ammunition used by the militant group's fighters — and is limited to bullets from self-loading pistols, machine guns and submachine guns, and assault rifles.
Ammunition was recovered from four locations in northern Iraq and Syria in July and August — most of it originating from China, Serbia and the Soviet Union in the 1970s and '80s. But the group also recovered Iranian ammunition that, "if transferred deliberately," violates a U.N. Security Council resolution that prohibits Iran’s export of ammunition.
The production dates of the ammunition recovered range from 1945 to 2014.
During an assault on IS forces in northern Iraq's Sinjar Mountains in early August, for example, the Kurdish forces "captured 5.56 x 45 mm ammunition loaded into the magazines of 11 M16A4 assault rifles and 9 x 19 mm ammunition found in the magazine of a Glock G19 semi-automatic pistol," the report said. The 5.56 x 45 mm ammunition was manufactured between 2005 and 2007 at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri, the report said.
Fears of U.S.-manufactured arms winding up in the hands of terrorists have lingered since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.
In 2009, the New York Times reported that ammunition the United States provided to Afghan government forces had leaked to Taliban insurgents fighting near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.
"Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents’ corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces," the Times said.