Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Images recently uploaded to Twitter by the Free Syrian Amy’s ‘Division 30’ show combatants with US-made arms. In one image, a Mk 14 EBR (enhanced battle rifle) series weapon is visible in the foreground, while another fighter holds what is likely an M16A4 rifle.

The Mk 14 EBR series are self-loading rifles chambered for 7.62 x 51 mm and typically employed as designated marksman rifles (DMR). Originally introduced by the US Navy, Mk 14 series rifles have since been produced for other US service branches and sold to foreign allies. The model pictured appears to have been produced by Rock Island Arsenal, in Illinois. Minor diagnostic details such as the type of optic, scope mount, bipod, and other components distinguish it from other models. It is designated as the M14EBR-RI, and some 6,200 examples were fielded by the US Army. Another photo uploaded the same day shows fighters with a 120 mm M120 mortar system, with one fighter carrying another M16-type rifle.

FSA fighters from Division 30 with an M120 mortar system.

It is not clear how Division 30 acquired these weapons, but it is likely they received them as part of a US-administered train and equip programme. The Mk 14 EBR has previously been seen in Iraq in the hands of IS fighters, as seen below, thought to be captured from Iraqi security forces who had, in turn, received it from the United States. With recent reports that Jabhat al-Nusra fighters successfully abducted members of Division 30, and killed others, there remains a possibility that some of these supplied weapons will yet find their way into the hands of other groups.

DG (01JAN15) Arar
The latest space snapshots of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s northern border region shows additional construction activity to support the presence of its troops.

With the current conflict in Iraq and Syria, Saudi Arabia has had no choice but to rush equipment and supplies to defend the border area.

Imagery from January and June 2015 of Judayyidat Arar shows ongoing construction activity within a newly bermed area just outside the city (the imagery from June is unavailable for publication at this time). Like with Turaif, subsequent imagery has shown Saudi armor deployed to the region.

Last year in July, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya had reported that approximately 30,000 Saudi troops were dispatched to the Iraqi border. At the time, King Abdullah ordered “all necessary measures to secure the kingdom from terrorist groups or others who might disturb the security of the homeland”.

The move was announced as Iraqi troops were reported to be abandoning their posts in Karbala.

Arar, located less than 40 miles south of the Iraqi border, is an important defensive position in support of the order. It’s the capital of the Northern Border province and has a population of over 320,000. With border attacksreported earlier this year, the Kingdom doesn’t appear to be taking any chances.

Imagery acquired by DigitalGlobe of the civil-military Arar Airport from 01JAN15.

In March, Saudi forces launched a military exercise nearby focused on urban conflict. It sent a strong signal about the additional security measures being taken in the region. News reporting and handhelds suggest the exercise involved conventional and special forces troops supported by helicopters and armored vehicles.

Although few details were released to the public, more than likely the exercise involved the same troops that have taken position outside the city. It wouldn’t be surprising as recent infrastructure additions suggest troops will be deployed in the near-to-medium term. Imagery from June shows three different staging areas (or parade grounds) along with what appears to be five new drive-through sheds, probably for vehicle storage. Other support buildings were also erected.

The nearby civilian-military airport, whose new helicopter apron had been built since 2014, showed little change. The temporary support shelter that can be seen in January, was being replaced by permanent shelters in June. Six helos including 2 x Apache, 2 x Black Hawk and 2 x probable Combat Scouts were parked nearby in the earlier imagery. They could still observed at the airport in June.