From where does the ISIS procure weapons?


Were those weapons (guns specifically) used by ISIS made by USA or Russia or some other known entity?


Posted 2015-02-05T05:41:59.240

Reputation: 628

1This seems too broad a question; perhaps you could ask about a specific terrorist group? – Publius – 2015-02-05T06:41:13.687

@Avi Lets say ISIS – jorel – 2015-02-05T11:44:06.433

2you should clarify that within your question. – Publius – 2015-02-05T12:32:50.247

1Define "those weapons" and "terror organizations" – None – 2015-02-05T19:03:49.040

1Ok I have edited my question to narrow the scope – jorel – 2015-02-06T04:07:47.747

The edit actually drastically changes the question. The title is asking where they 'got' them from. The body of the question is 'where are they made'. These can (and often are) two entirely different things. – None – 2015-02-06T22:41:41.167

@DA feel free to edit. English is my third language – jorel – 2015-02-07T01:15:39.990

Where they are made is usually not as interesting as the question of who sold them to the end-user and who knew/anticipated the sale to happen. Even more interesting is the question where the money came from. – Philipp – 2015-02-07T15:01:59.140

@Philipp, I am interested in finding out whose weapons are being used and how did those weapons end up in ISIS – jorel – 2015-02-08T04:23:58.797

@jorel The that's what you should be asking. – Philipp – 2015-02-08T07:20:52.923



As is often the case, the “terrorist” label creates more confusion than clarity. It can cover many different organizations, with widely different weapons and sources of support.

For example, the weapons used in the recent attacks in and around Paris were sourced locally (possibly from Belgium), it's the kind of things bank robbers or drug traffickers occasionally use as well. Most of the weapons mentioned by the press (Kalashnikov, Tokarev pistol, Skorpion submachine gun) were designed and produced in large numbers in the Soviet Union and its satellite states. Many have been used during the civil war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s and from there apparently found their way to various criminal circuits. Some of them simply get stolen from the armies there. The Telegraph published an interesting article on that with more details and nuances.

Daech is a completely different beast. Various press reports suggest most of their weapons were captured from their enemies, including Iraqi army armories. I found a report from some British organization tracing the source of ammunition found in the field. A few results:

  • Daech was able to source ammunition from very different countries, including the US, China and Russia (some of it so old as to have been manufactured in the Soviet Union!).
  • What was found depends on the specific area. In Iraq, it's mostly US-made (by way of US allies in the region). In Syria, it's older China or Soviet-made ammunition that Syria's army and security forces would have imported earlier.
  • Recently produced ammunition only accounts for 10% of the finds. It comes from Bulgaria and China, which still manufacture ammunition for Soviet/Warsaw pact weapons. There is some from Turkey as well, for weapons from NATO countries.
  • A few spent cartridges come from Iran, possibly through the Syrian security forces. It's not the most important source but the report highlights this because it seems that any export from Iran (even to official Syrian forces) would have been in violation of a UN security council resolution.
  • Some ammunition comes from far away countries like Kyrgyzstan, Albania or North Korea. There are also a couple from Sudan. The number is small so there is no evidence that Sudan plays a great role in all this but this illustrates the complexity of the supply routes.
  • Some ammunition for Soviet weapons was produced in Russia but for a US company. It was then distributed to US allies in the region, another strange twist in the story.

The article mentioned by PointlessSpike in a comment also provides some details on heavier weapons.


Posted 2015-02-05T05:41:59.240

Reputation: 24 058

Uh, Daech? Is that yet another name for IS/ISIS/ISIL? – PointlessSpike – 2015-02-05T13:06:11.040

1@PointlessSpike Yes, it's a direct transcription of its actual name in Arabic and the name used officially in France, apparently to avoid calling it a “state”. – Relaxed – 2015-02-05T13:08:17.073


@PointlessSpike Apparently they don't like it, because it also does away with pronouncing the word “islamic”.

– Relaxed – 2015-02-05T13:17:49.267

1I love that I don't speak French but I can still kinda read that article. – PointlessSpike – 2015-02-05T13:23:35.063


You might find this article useful. It details the tactics of terrorism and kinds of weapons used.

The question of where terrorists get their weapons from is very broad, possibly stemming from a misunderstanding of the nature of terrorism. Terrorism, for a start, doesn't have a single definition- mainly, I think, because one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. So I'll instead answer the question "where do small, belligerent organisations incapable of creating sophisticated weaponry get their weaponry from?".

  1. From friendly, larger organisations such as countries. Often the success of belligerent organisations is dependant on larger ones supporting them. This could be in the form of money to buy weapons or the weapons themselves. They'll then be able to procure sophisticated weaponry that they can use against others. Of course, there is no guarantee the belligerents will do what the larger organisation wants- Al-Qaeda being a good example.

  2. From enemy, larger organisations. Often belligerents will steal weapons or money from larger organisations- for example, IS captured much US weaponry left by Iraqi forces and regularly attempts to extort ransom so they can get more.

  3. Improvised. Many organisations with few resources create primitive weaponry themselves, such as Improvised Explosive Devices. An example would be the Taliban use of IED's in Afghanistan.

  4. From anyone willing to sell. This could be larger organisations with a surplus who don't oppose the buyer, small suppliers who serve as middlemen, or even individuals selling weapons without authorisation. Of course, this requires money or other tradeable resources, so generally this is almost beside the point as they would have to go through others to get these things.


Posted 2015-02-05T05:41:59.240

Reputation: 1 769

You got my question right I guess. However could you kindly explain if guns wielded by ISIS members are manufactured at a known country or a factory? – jorel – 2015-02-05T11:58:44.550

@pointlessspike it isn't correct to say that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Terrorism isn't a matter of perspective, but rather a matter of tactics; if the group targets civilians for political gain, it is a terrorist group. – Publius – 2015-02-05T12:33:51.290

1@Avi, I absolutely agree. However, many don't use the word that way. Nowadays a "terrorist" is anyone you don't agree with. Language is a powerful thing, so people have been twisting it since the dawn of time. – PointlessSpike – 2015-02-05T12:45:57.637

@jorel, there are a number of articles online about this. For example: If you want a specific answer, you should ask a specific question.

– PointlessSpike – 2015-02-05T12:48:08.153

3@Avi But if that's the definition, how come we apply the label to Daech? Much of what it does looks like conventional warfare or at least classic guerilla. It's also particularly vicious in the way it treats civilians in the conflict zone but even that isn't unique and I don't remember anybody important speaking of “terrorism” with respect to the Congo wars or Yugoslavia. At this point, terrorism is a matter of perspective. Even if you wished you could rescue it with some reasonable-sounding definition, it's just not the way the word is used. – Relaxed – 2015-02-05T13:01:34.070

@Relaxed To use another example of the word being "unconventional war we don't like," in the US people have applied the "terrorist" label to people attacking US military personnel on patrols in Iraq and Afghanistan, which would more traditionally be called "guerilla warfare against a foreign military." – cpast – 2015-02-05T17:05:38.893

@Relaxed ISIS would be a terrorist group because of how it treats civilians in the conflict zone. Sure, this isn't unique, and you could well apply the label to groups in the Congo and in Yugoslavia. If people didn't that's a failure on their part, not in the term. But the definition I provided is one actually used in the field of political science; it isn't arbitrary, it isn't a matter of perspective, and I didn't make it up. – Publius – 2015-02-05T23:10:46.857

@cpast that is more complicated. Attacks on US troops on patrol would not inherently be terrorism, but the fact that those attacks took place in cities because the terrorists were shielding themselves by hiding among civilians does constitute terrorism on their part. – Publius – 2015-02-05T23:11:42.603

@Avi Well, that seems like a distinction without a difference. Failure to use it consistently can quickly make a word useless. I am sure you didn't make up this definition but you can't pretend that it's what the word actually means when it's not the way it is used. Adding other definitions won't make the label more useful or less arbitrary. – Relaxed – 2015-02-06T11:25:34.353

@Relaxed people use words carelessly, but those words can still have meaning, especially if they are used in a technical sense outside of every day usage. The definition stands that terrorist groups are (usually non-governmental) organizations that target civilians with violence for political gain. – Publius – 2015-02-06T19:58:12.523

@Avi It's an interesting question that I had the opportunity to explore in a completely different context. That's the reason why psychologists or social scientists sometimes coin new words that feel a little strange. To a point it might be possible for a technical definition and informal usage to coexist, but for “terrorism” I think it's not the case anymore. When “improper” usage is so overwhelming, the claim that any particular definition isn't arbitrary just doesn't work any more. You can't state that a word means whatever you want it to mean and hope to be understood… – Relaxed – 2015-02-06T20:02:45.553

@Relaxed Perhaps, but in a technical context like this one where the topic is implicitly we politics, we can use technical terms and either assume or explain that we're using precise rather than colloquial definitions. – Publius – 2015-02-06T20:05:08.060

@Avi What technical context? It is used in the way I describe in political discourse (which is not limited to political science…) Do you have some evidence for the consistency of a technical meaning of the term, incidentally? – Relaxed – 2015-02-06T20:05:41.987

@Relaxed There is some inconsistency in definition, but they universally refer to tactics rather than just perspective: It makes more sense to say that people misuse the term more than it does to say that the term means nothing.

– Publius – 2015-02-06T20:09:08.460

@Avi I meant some evidence of consistent use in a body of research and a consensus to find the term useful. When pressed for a definition, most (although by no means all) writers will try to dress it up as a matter of tactics but it never was that, as shown by the examples I provided. Just to show that I am not making this up, here is a brief paper by a sociologist making a similar argument.

– Relaxed – 2015-02-06T20:18:19.343

@Relaxed unfortunately I only speak English, but I don't see why we should concern ourselves with the layman's misuse of the term when there are operable and consistent definitions. – Publius – 2015-02-06T20:29:26.257


The main source of ISIS weapons is the Syrian regime who has continues support from Russia. ISIS take these weapons from corrupted army officers or by attacking military bases.

other sources are not continues as ISIS is surrounded by non supporting countries.

Mahmoud Khateeb

Posted 2015-02-05T05:41:59.240

Reputation: 215

Do you have any sources or references? – jorel – 2015-02-10T14:37:09.657

1I am Syrian, and I do have a lot of friends who lives in different areas around Syria, some in the regime controlled areas, some in ISIS controlled areas, some in the FSA controlled areas. so I hear about their battles and what they get from it. – Mahmoud Khateeb – 2015-02-10T15:13:48.533