Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighters have been assumed to have "limited air defence capability," the BBC has reported — but they're well short of having the kind of Russian equipment thought to have shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17.
In that case, U.S. officials have said a Russian-made Buk missile launcher operated by rebels in Ukraine may have fired a radar-guided SA-11 missile that took down the airliner, killing 298 people. Firing such missiles requires training. Lack of it may have contributed to the Malaysian airlines disaster.
So far, ISIS is believed to be using only portable, shoulder-mounted launchers that fire heat-seeking missiles — potentially effective, but far less sophisticated than SA-11s.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday it had confirmation from activists in the area that the aircraft was shot down, either by a Russian-made anti-aircraft missile or by heavy machine-gun fire.
Activists say ISIS is widely known to have Igla devices, known as Man Portable Air Defence Systems or MANPADS, either captured or bought from rival Syrian rebels, who were provided them by international patrons or bought them on the international market.
State arsenals in both Iraq and Syria have been looted, so that could also be a source of Iglas circulating among rebels.
Asaad Kanjo, an activist based in the northwestern province of Idlib, said ISIS is believed to have acquired the Igla missiles by buying them from mainstream rebel commanders or after some opposition fighters defected and joined the jihadi group.
Germany's intelligence service was reported in October to have warned that ISIS fighters were equipped with portable rocket launchers seized from Syrian armed forces.
The shoulder-mounted MANPADS were Russian-designed but may have been manufactured in other countries such as Bulgaria or China, the newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported.
Still, ISIS appears able to gather up and move former Syrian and Iraqi military equipment as it establishes bases in those countries, and it's widely assumed to have oil-driven financial resources that would allow it to buy arms on the open market.
Canada is contributing to the U.S.-led bombing campaign against ISIS, but has limited its involvement to targets in Iraq.
Earlier this month, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada has no plans to follow the U.S. in expanding airstrikes against the ISIS militants in Syria.Suggest a correction