[Strategic Intel] Terrorists comb the Dark Web for deadlier weapons

Terrorists are scouring the Dark Web in search of weapons that are more potent and deadlier than simple rocket-propelled grenade launchers and assault rifles.

The digital black markets are providing terrorist organizations from Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, as well as radicalized individuals from the West, access to a larger assortment of arms and weapons like explosives materials, a larger arms assortment and, best of all, anonymity.

Traditionally, terrorist groups raid arms depots or police facilities to obtain weapons. And while that method is still being utilized, the Dark Web is beginning to play a bigger role in providing such groups with more diversified — and deadly — armaments.

These include MANPADS — Man-Portable Air Defense Systems — that can disrupt commercial airline traffic.

“Dark Web marketplaces have the potential of becoming increasingly used by small criminal groups or terrorist cells (including lone wolves) due to the ease of access and perception of anonymity,” said Giacomo Persi Paoli, Research Leader, RAND Corporation. [source]

(Analyst comment: An April 2016 report documents militant groups in Libya engaging in a burgeoning online trade in captured arms over private forums on the social media platform Facebook. Most of these weapons are of the traditional light, small-arms variety. But increasingly, experts are seeing smaller terrorist groups and individuals shopping for more exotic weapons like heavy machine guns, anti-tank guided missiles, MANPADS and grenade launchers. Just imagine what a batch of MANPADS would do to commercial air traffic in the United States after just one incident? The industry would be crippled, commerce would be dramatically impacted, and of course, travel would become a nightmare.)

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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