Foreign Desk News reported on Wednesday that Syrian jihadis have been using Facebook as a marketplace to “buy, sell and barter a wide variety of American-made weapons and munitions ranging from rocket launchers to machine guns.” Shortly after this report was posted, Facebook administrators took the page down.
A remarkable variety of weapons were for sale on the jihadi-run Facebook page. The inventory included TOW and MANPAD missile launchers, weapons capable of taking down military and civilian aircraft. Other featured items include a Soviet grenade launcher, a FLIR thermal camera, and 105mm cannon shells.
Most of these weapons were advertised as American ordnance intended for the “moderate rebels” of Syria. Critics of President Obama’s muddled Syrian policy warned that reliable and combat-effective “moderate rebels” were few in number, and equipment intended for them would likely end up in jihadi hands.
According to Foreign Desk News, the Facebook page billed itself as “the first weapons market in the Idlib countryside,” referring to a region located about 35 miles southwest of the hotly contested Syrian city of Aleppo. The Syrian army has been fighting terrorists linked to al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in the area recently.
The page reportedly included links to jihadi gangs like Ahrar al-Sham, a branch of al-Qaeda, and the Islamic Front, making it curious that it took a media report to bring the site to Facebook’s attention.
Interested buyers were instructed to contact the jihadi arms salesmen using secure WhatsApp communications. That means considerable damage could already have been done, if the enterprising arms dealers really have the goods. They might have established secure communications with buyers before their Facebook page was removed.
Of course, it is always possible the creators of this Facebook page (dubbed “Ebay for Jihadis” by the UK Mirror) were not actually in possession of all the American weapons they listed for sale, although the page included some fairly convincing photos.
The Mirror notes that ISIS is believed to have attacked an Egyptian Navy ship in September with a TOW missile, which would suggest such weapons have indeed found their way into terrorist hands. Given the state of play in the Idlib province, the Mirror suggests that the website’s primary customers were al-Qaeda-linked groups.