This ISIS Armored Loader Just Broke Through Iraqi Army Lines and Blew Up

The fight for Mosul is reaching a new level of violence as ISIS holds onto the last quarter of the city.

byTyler Rogoway|
Iraq photo


It looks like something out of dystopian hellscape because it is—that hellscape being war-torn northwest Mosul, Iraq. And this crudely armored loader just barreled through the front lines and into a Iraqi security forces forward operating base before exploding into a massive fireball.

Northwest Mosul is the last quarter of the city held by the Islamic State, and the last major concentration of the terror group left in Iraq. With nowhere to run, ISIS is making the Iraqi Army, led by Iraq's battle-hardened Golden Division, pay dearly for every last inch. 

A major uptick in improvised explosive devices (IEDs), booby traps, and drone-dropped bomblets have punctuated the last few weeks of fighting. The worst flavor among them are the especially deadly vehicle-borne IEDs (VBIED) that have a suicide bomber at the wheel of what is basically a guided missile. What's worse is that ISIS has learned all too well that armoring these vehicles—and especially adapting heavy equipment that can plow through barriers—makes them even more effective. 

Today, one of these vehicles did just that. This horrifying death machine was filmed on its way to its target and overhead by a drone as it detonated at the Iraqi security forces makeshift base. 

Here's the video of the VBEID and the attack:

The attack supposedly just happened, so we don't know how many Iraqi security forces personnel were harmed in the blast. But it is a stark reminder that after many months of intense urban combat, the fight for Mosul is still very much underway. 

Here's a great animated map showing the progress of the operation. Below that is Iraq's official map of what districts have been recaptured and where ISIS continues to hold ground. The eastern half of Mosul is no longer shown on maps from the Iraqi Army because ISIS has been removed from that area for some time now.

Iraqi Army/Nineveh Media Center

The end may beginning to appear within sight, but actually realizing it will be one bloody march. Still, it is amazing the progress the Iraqis and their coalition partners have made. 

It was questionable whether Iraq's security forces, which had chronically failed even after well over a decade of training and material support, would be able to hold up to such a grueling fight. They have done incredibly well under abhorrent conditions, with special operations units leading the charge. We have no metrics on the overall casualties sustained during the operation; the Iraqi government is totally unwilling to release them for public consumption. But we know it has been a brutal fight with a very high toll—largely the result of an entrenched and fanatical enemy that has weaponized anything they can get their hands on to take the fight to the Iraqi security forces on multiple fronts. 

Now, the final test begins. The density of ISIS fighters is likely to only increase as Iraqi forces push northward. After months of continuous fighting, it would be a challenge for any military to keep up the operations tempo against such a challenging set of circumstances. We'll have to wait and see if the Iraqis are up for the ultimate charge. 

Still, the big question looms—with so many battle hardened factions armed and mobilized, as well as their individual proxies' interests, what comes of Iraq after Mosul and ISIS? Will these factions lay their arms down in a push for peace, or will they turn on one another in what could be a far more devastating civil war than what Syria has experienced in recent years? Only time will tell. 

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