Feeding the fighting machine

By Erika Solomon and Ahmed Mhidi

‘They buy like mad’

As a known arms dealer for rebels fighting Isis in his east Syrian home town, Abu Ali was sure his days were numbered when, in November 2014, two jihadi commanders stepped out of their pickup truck and walked towards him.
He was baffled when they handed him a printed paper. “It read, ‘This person is permitted to buy and sell all types of weaponry inside the Islamic State,’” recalled Abu Ali. “It was even stamped ‘Mosul Centre’.”
Rather than being detained or expelled as they had feared when the jihadi group swept through eastern Syria in 2014, many black-market traders such as Abu Ali were courted by Isis. They were absorbed into a complex system of supply and ...

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