Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Now ISIS has drones?

By Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
An explosion rocks Kobani, Syria, during a reported car-bomb attack by ISIS militants on Monday, October 20. Civil war has destabilized Syria and created an opening for the militant group, which is also advancing in Iraq as it seeks to create an Islamic caliphate in the region. An explosion rocks Kobani, Syria, during a reported car-bomb attack by ISIS militants on Monday, October 20. Civil war has destabilized Syria and created an opening for the militant group, which is also advancing in Iraq as it seeks to create an Islamic caliphate in the region.
HIDE CAPTION
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
Iraq under siege
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
The ISIS terror threat
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Peter Bergen, Cynthia Schneider: Video seems to show that ISIS has surveillance drone
  • They say this highlights new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once used by states
  • They say Hezbollah says it has used them; Hamas says it has armed and unarmed drones
  • Writers: Some 80 nations now have drones. We need 'Geneva Convention' to govern their use

Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst, a director at the New America Foundation and the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden -- From 9/11 to Abbottabad." Emily Schneider is a research associate at the New America Foundation.

(CNN) -- In a video uploaded to YouTube on Saturday purportedly by the terrorist group ISIS, various scenes of jihadist propaganda flash across the screen: militants reading verses from the Quran and examining a map of northern Syria, clips of violent clashes and explosions.

But this video had something else in it that previous videos released by ISIS have not: Surveillance footage apparently shot by a drone.

The almost 14-minute video shows aerial views of Syrian Army Military Base 93 near Raqqa province in northern Syria.

Peter Bergen
Peter Bergen

ISIS militants attacked the base on August 7, deploying suicide bombers driving truck bombs to soften up resistance in scenes that are also shown in the videotape that was released Saturday.

The caption over the surveillance footage of the Syrian military base reads: "From the drone of the army of the Islamic State."

That ISIS appears now to be using a relatively sophisticated surveillance drone to plan its military operations underlines an important development: Technology that was once the monopoly of states is now being used by terrorist groups. In April, for example, the Israeli military said it had shot down a drone off the coast of Haifa and that it was operated by Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group operating out of Lebanon.

Hezbollah denied responsibility for the drone, but had claimed earlier that it had operated another drone that had flown 35 miles into Israel in October.

Hamas, too, has drone capabilities. On July 14, Israel shot down a Hamas-operated drone that was flying in Israeli airspace above Ashdod, a city in southern Israel, marking what is believed to be the first time the militant group had sent an unmanned aircraft into Israeli territory.

Hamas then posted a video online that showed another drone, this one with four small rockets under its wings, flying over what analysts believe could also be Israeli airspace.

According to Hamas, its military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, has engineered three different types of drones: ones for surveillance purposes; ones that can be armed; and ones that can operate as self-guided missiles -- a sort of "suicide drone."

U.N.: ISIS may slaughter another town
ISIS - The threat to the West
Should beheading video be seen?

Israel subsequently bombed what it claimed was a Hamas-run drone facility in Gaza.

Libyan opposition fighters targeting Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi started using drones for surveillance during the summer of 2011 when they bought a Scout drone from a Canadian company.

The Libyan opposition needed a way to survey its routes before sending rebels into areas where Gadhafi's soldiers were stationed. The four-rotor helicopter that dangles a stabilized camera seemed like the perfect option. The drone cost between $100,000 and $200,000, according to an article by Laura Rozen for Yahoo News.

Armed drones have been deployed in combat by only three countries: the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel. However, according to a count by the New America Foundation, some 80 countries have some kind of drone capability, whether armed or unarmed. Russia, China and Iran are among the nations that possess armed drones but haven't used them in combat

That terrorist and militant organizations have acquired and used drones during combat operations for surveillance purposes shows how rapidly this technology is proliferating. This is why it is crucial to have some kind of international agreement that governs the use of armed drones by both states and "nonstate actors."

One could imagine the creation of some kind of Geneva Convention that specifies as a matter of international law when the use of armed drones could be sanctioned outside of conventional war zones to kill terrorists.

Such a convention would also help to prevent the sale or transfer of sophisticated drone technology to nonstate actors such as ISIS.

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT