Inside an armoured vehicle in Mosul, a colonel scans live footage from a drone flying above the Iraqi city, hunting targets for a new weapon deployed against jihadists. The Islamic State group has used small commercial drones to drop explosives on advancing Iraqi forces since they launched the offensive to retake Iraq's second city in October. As the battle now focuses on recapturing west Mosul, Colonel Hussein Muayad's federal police forces have adopted the tactic, equipping their own remote-controlled surveillance drones with 40 mm grenades that are usually fired from grenade launchers. "Residents would stare at the sky" during the Mosul fighting, fearing IS drones, says Muayad, wearing a black jacket over his federal police uniform. "Now it's the enemy whose eyes never leave the sky." The moustachioed police officer in his 40s is clearly proud of the new military tactic. "They used to hit us once. But we can hit them up to four times with a single drone," he says. Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat of the federal police - who are taking part in the battle alongside a special forces unit - says the "new military tactic" has been very effective. "Dozens of terrorists have been killed and wounded. Jihadist movements have been paralysed," Jawdat says. Muayad sits surrounded by four television screens, a black drone at his feet.
A dozen oblong explosive devices tipped by the small, rounded grenades are nearby, pin near one end and a netted skirt taken from a badminton shuttlecock on the other. "That's so it keeps its balance as it falls," Muayad says. Chain-smoking cigarettes, the colonel watches the live footage of a weaponised drone as it slowly buzzes over the devastated streets of west Mosul. The device slows to a hover above a white car near the front line. "A vehicle providing logistic support, used to transport fighters or food," Muayad explains. But there is no strike on the car, due to the presence nearby of a device designed to jam drone commands that Iraqi forces set up to protect themselves from IS attacks. The colonel shows AFP footage of previous attacks. The munitions fall in slow motion on a group of fighters gathered in front of a mosque. More explosives are dropped on a car, small clouds of grey smoke erupting on the screen.
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