Video released by an Iranian-backed Shiite militia this week appears to show fighters rolling near Baghdad in a U.S.-made M1 Abrams tank, raising fears that one of the world's most lethal weapons has fallen into dangerous hands.
The Defense Department did not confirm the video for FoxNews.com, but the M1 makes its appearance 16 seconds into the roughly edited video following a montage of blasts from military rifles, shoulder-fire missiles and fighters sitting for prayer in an open field.
The terror group in the video was reportedly identified as the Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuda, or KSS. The militia, also known as the Battalion of the Sayyid’s Martyrs, has stated that its aim is to protect “shrines across the globe,” preserve “Iraqi unity” and to end sectarian conflict. The group also has spoken out about the U.S. role in destabilizing the region.
LongWarJournal.com reported that it is unknown where the tank was located, but said it was likely within Iraq’s central Salahadin province, where the terror group faced off against ISIS.
The M1 is a technologically advanced tank that, if armed, could wreak havoc on vehicles and towns in the region.
“The tank can easily turn a house into splinters,” Jacob Brooks, a tanker in U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division from 1993-96 and military editor of the Kileen Daily Herald, told FoxNews.com. “The question is, if the video is true, can these militants figure out how to control it?”
KSS rose in prominence during the Syrian civil war and fought on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime against the rebels. The terror group also issued a threat to Saudi Arabia after the death sentence handed down to Saudi’s Shi’a cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
Brooks said learning to drive the tank is relatively easy: it has a push-button start and a throttle like a motorcycle. “You can probably drive it around with relatively simple training.”
But making use of the tank as a weapon of war requires training and equipment. The main gun takes 120-mm. rounds, and, according to Brooks, “you can’t pick those up at a corner store.” The tank is also a gas-guzzler and only takes JP-8 jet fuel.
The M1s weigh 60 tons, carry a 32-foot gun and have a cruising range of 275 miles. GlobalSecurity.org reported that the tank requires about 300 gallons of fuel every eight hours and gets .6 miles per gallon.
The real issue would involve tank-maintenance, Brooks said. Operators need to continually gauge the hydraulics and monitor its eight batteries. If the tank is driven over tough terrain and its tracks become dislodged, a highly-trained tank mechanic is required for reassembly.
Christopher McMahan, a former Abram’s tank crewmember, appeared to agree with Brooks and said driving one is fairly easy. He said in an email that maintenance can be difficult and an operator should know something about a turbine engine.
He wrote that firing the weaponry takes extensive practice due to ballistics and trajectory. He agreed that track maintenance can be challenging “especially in sand.”
Elissa Smith, a spokeswoman from the U.S. Defense Department, told FoxNews.com in an email that the department cannot confirm the video “or offer an assessment of the surrounding situation where the tank may have been taken."
“We have received assurances from the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi Security Forces that they will use U.S. equipment in accordance with U.S. law and our bilateral agreements," her statement said. "If we receive reports that U.S.-origin equipment is being misused or provided to unauthorized users, we engage the Iraqi government in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy to address any confirmed issues -- up to the highest levels, if necessary."
The Abrams tank is named after Gen. Creighton Abrams, one of the top tank commanders during World War II and a former Army chief of staff. Gen. George S. Patton once said, “I’m supposed to be the best tank commander in the Army, but I have one peer, Abe Abrams. He’s the world champion.”
The first editions of the Abrams tank were fielded in the early 1980s and they proved their effectiveness in Operation Desert Storm, when they destroyed more than 2,000 enemy tanks while suffering only 18 damaged M1s. The tank has grown in popularity around the world and the U.S. has in the past sold these tanks to countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.