KIRKUK, Iraq – Captured ISIS weapons show the black-clad militants are developing an arsenal of sophisticated arms, and Kurdish fighters told FoxNews.com they fear the terrorist force's expanding manufacturing capability is making it more formidable by the day.
"They are using high-tech (weaponry), and have the know-how from all over the world."
- Peshmerga Maj. Gen. Sirwan Barzani
In a dusty outpost near the Kurdish-held northern city of Kirkuk, a Peshmerga commander recently displayed two weapons that show his enemy's increasing adaptability on the battlefield. One was a scoped sniper rifle, customized and mounted on a welded steel platform and built to track targets by computer and fire by remote control. The other was a much different type of weapon - a truck reinforced with two-inch thick steel plates to ensure its load of explosives could crash through checkpoints and make it to its target before detonating.
"They have more weapons than us, they have mines, C4, sniper rifles, humvees and tanks," said Peshmerga Commander Kemal Kerkuki.
In Anbar Province, where ISIS is fighting the U.S.-equipped Iraqi army, the terrorists are using weapons taken from their vanquished foes. But on the northern front where the Peshmerga clash daily with ISIS, the militant fighters have powerful equipment either modified or built within the so-called caliphate known as Islamic State.
Kerkuki revealed the captured weaponry along with bullet riddled black flags and photographs of other ISIS munitions captured during a successful Peshmerga operation against ISIS just weeks ago. The gun was operated attached to a computer by four long cables that controlled barrel elevation, gun rotation, the trigger and the camera. An operator could place the weapon at an elevated vantage point, and then hide out of sight while controlling the weapon via the computer screen like a lethal video game.
Kerkuki said it was not clear who built the weapon or where it came from. Controls and labels on the wires were written in English, but the deadly innovation of the device led some to suspect it was built by Chechen fighters, who have poured in to join ISIS.
"[ISIS] has all types of weapons, heavy machine guns, tanks," said Peshmerga Maj. Gen. Sirwan Barzani. "They are using high-tech (weaponry), and have the know-how from all over the world."
The truck, which looked like something driven off the set of an apocalyptic zombie movie, featured an armored turret on top with space for heavy machine guns. But its cargo left no need for speculation about its true purpose. Packed with hundreds of containers of C4, it was the ultimate suicide vehicle, impervious to small arms and built by ISIS mere miles from the Kurdish lines. The Kurds deemed the bomb-laden truck so dangerous they requested and got an American air strike to destroy it.
Kurdish military sources said the improvised weapons show ISIS is adapting from its use of conventional weapons easily spotted from air and vulnerable to coalition sorties. Peshmerga commanders say that, while coalition air superiority has changed the dynamic of the war, they need weapon for troops on the ground to combat ISIS. To a man, they complain that the central government in Baghdad, which has always eyed the semi-autonomous Kurds suspiciously, is slow to send supplies needed for the fight they share.
Advanced weapons in the hands of Kurds, they say, would negate any need for U.S. boots on the ground. As ingenious and frightening as ISIS arsenal in northern Iraq may be, the Kurds say, vehicles such as the suicide truck would be no match for advanced weapons such as the American or European surface-to-surface missile systems.
But the Peshmerga, whose name translates to "Ones who confront death," will fight ISIS with whatever they have on hand.
"Their weapons are strong, but our goals are bigger than theirs," Kerkuki said. "ISIS has no future in Kurdistan."