The photos are said to depict the Islamic State’s sniper battalion in Iraq’s Nineveh province, which is north of Baghdad and includes the sprawling city of Mosul, which has been under militant control since June. The photos were distributed on Twitter and militant web forums on Tuesday, the SITE group said.
It might be a warning of sorts: Following a Kurdish victory over the Islamic State in the Syrian town of Kobane this week, it is believed Iraqi and Kurdish forces are preparing for a military campaign in Mosul.
The semi-automatic weapons shown in the photos released by SITE are traditionally used by insurgents against American and coalition troops. They also have been used by the Iraqi military, as old U.S. military photographs show. The rifles use a 7.62 x 54mmR round that can be accurate out to about 600 meters. They are not as accurate as modern American sniper rifles, but are still considered infamous by many U.S. troops.
U.S. troops also train with Dragunov rifles, in case they are ever forced to pick up one on the battlefield. Army Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha is credited with using one issued to Afghan National Army soldiers working with his unit while fending off a brutal attack on his base, Combat Outpost Keating, in Afghanistan on Oct. 3, 2009. He was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor that day.
“Despite having only a basic knowledge of the foreign weapon, Romesha engaged multiple enemy positions on the north face, including a machine gun nest and sniper position,” the official Army narrative for his award states. “While continuing to expose himself to heavy enemy fire, Romesha engaged the enemy positions until they were no longer effective.”
Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed to this post.