Brigadier Abdallah Jaafar never imagined that the weapon to which he lost two of his fingers while battling the extremist group Islamic State would become part of an exhibition.
But now the Kurdish military officer is supervising a collection of different explosives used by the group, known as IS, in hopes of educating his troops on how to better combat them.
"It was started by personal efforts and we collected samples of all the explosives used by the IS group in its battles against the Peshmerga forces on the different fronts,” he told NIQASH.
There are around 150 examples found in Iraq and Syria on display at the exhibition, which is located in the engineering battalion’s headquarters in the Smail district, about 5 kilometres west of Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan.
"The novelty of these explosives made the Peshmerga eager to study them,to prevent damage by them in fighting the IS group," Jaafar said.
The large collection of improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs, represents just a fraction of the kinds of explosives used by the IS group, he added. Jaafar alleges that the group has a number of weapons factories supervised by experts from inside and outside Iraq, among them some who worked in the field of military industrialization during Iraq’s Baathist regime era.
“The main purpose behind collecting these samples was to introduce them to the Kurdish fighters to enable them to identify and handle them on the different fronts,” he said, explaining that many Peshmerga fighters have fallen victim to them due to lack of information.
The IS group has invented a number of new kinds of explosives seen in recent battles, said his colleague, Lieutenant Colonel Nawzad Kamel, one of several exhibition co-organizers. "Recently, the organization has used all available raw materials, such as iron and plastic, as well as fiberglass because it is bulletproof," he said.
The display includes a barrel full of explosive materials put under a bridge that never went off. Next to that, there is another dud that resembles a rocket tip. If fired from a locally made cannon, it would likely kill dozens, Kamel said. A nearby table features explosive belts that can be detonated by mobile phones or remote wireless devices.
"Most of the explosives are made of local materials, especially the big ones, for which IS uses chemical fertilizer, urea and nitrates, as well as ordnancetaken from the Iraqi and Syrian armies,"Kamel said. "In some cases,IS has used chlorine andmustard gas too."
Because both construction and detonation methods are constantly changing, traditional methods for detecting, removing and safely detonating the explosive devices often don’t apply. That’s part of why gaining firsthand experience of their various forms is important, the organisers say.
Improvised explosives are among the most effective tools for terror used by IS, Iraqi writer Yahya Abdul Karim told NIQASH.”The exhibition is very important as it shows all the methods used in battle by IS,” he said, suggesting that beyond Iraq and Syria, the group uses similar methods in Libya, Yemen and Europe.
He called on authorities to expand the exhibition and “bring in foreign experts to study these samples of explosives and develop methods on how to deal with each kind.”