Washington, Oct 13 French and Kurdish forces in northern Iraq were attacked by an exploding drone, the Pentagon has said, adding a new worry to the wars in Iraq and Syria as militant groups learn to weaponise their store-bought drones.
Air Force Col John Dorrian, the spokesman for the US-led military coalition in Iraq, said yesterday that an improvised device on a drone exploded after it was taken back to a camp near the Iraqi city of Irbil. He called it a Trojan Horse-style attack.
Two Kurds were killed in that incident on October 2, according to a US official, who said the drone looked like a Styrofoam model plane that was taped together in a very rudimentary style.
The official said it appeared to be carrying a C-4 charge and batteries, and may have had a timer on it. That official was not authorised to discuss the incident publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
France's presidential spokesman, Stephane Le Foll, said yesterday that two French special forces were seriously injured in the explosion.
The US has seen militants use a variety of improvised drones and modified drones, Dorrian said, adding, "there's nothing very high tech about them."
"They can just buy them as anybody else would," he told reporters Wednesday. "Some of those are available on Amazon."
A recently released video belonging to an al-Qaida offshoot, Jund al-Aqsa, purportedly shows a drone landing on Syrian military barracks.
In another video, small explosives purportedly dropped by the Iran-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah target the Sunni militant group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front, near Aleppo.
The technology is not new, but the videos are the first known demonstration of these capabilities by any militant groups.
While militants with drones are not a significant military threat, Dorrian said the US and its partner countries are taking it seriously.
Chris Woods, the head of the Airwars project, which tracks the international air war in Iraq, Syria and Libya, said, "there are a million ways you can weaponize drones fire rockets, strap things in and crash them."
"This is the stuff everyone has been terrified about for years, and now it's a reality," he added.
The US military official couldn't immediately authenticate the videos in question. But another former senior US military official who viewed the videos said there was nothing to suggest they were fake.
A number of militant groups in the Middle East, including the Islamic State group, Jund al-Aqsa and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, as well as Hezbollah and Hamas, have all released videos indicating that they have surveillance and reconnaissance drones.