ISIS using Swiss-made hand grenades in Syria: report

New images appear to show that fighters with the so-called Islamic State (IkSIS) in Syria are in possession of hand grenades made in Switzerland.

ISIS using Swiss-made hand grenades in Syria: report
Syrian rebel fighters from the recently-formed "National Liberation Front" in Idlib province where the Swiss-made grenades were discovered. Photo: AFP

The television images show HG85 and OHG92 explosive hand grenades made by Swiss state arms manufacturer RUAG, according to Swiss newspaper SonntagsBlick.

According to the paper, the grenades can be seen in photos of a weapons stash of an ISIS sleeper cell discovered on August 8th in the Syrian province of Idlib.

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“Based on the images, it can be assumed that the hand grenades were produced by Ruag in Switzerland,” company spokesperson Clemens Gähwiler told SonntagsBlick.

The spokesperson said the devices could been part of a shipment of grenades to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which was green-lighted by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) in 2003.

But Gähwiler said that it was impossible to be certain as the grenades’ serial numbers were not visible.

A Seco spokesperson told Switzerland’s SDA news agency it couldn’t rule out that a number of Ruag hand grenades had ended up in Syria given the illegal onward transfer of part of the 2003–04 shipment made to the UAE.

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This is not the first time Swiss grenades have ended up in Syria. In 2012, photos appeared of Syrian rebels with the devices.

At the time, Seco said Ruag grenades shipped to the UAE several years earlier had been illegally transferred to Jordan before ending up in Syria. This revelation resulted in a temporary stop on Swiss arms exports to the UAE.

The news that Swiss grenades have surfaced in Syria again comes in the midst of a heated debate about weapons exports in Switzerland.

A parliamentary committee recently backed a Federal Council call for the relaxation of rules on the exports of arms to countries experiencing “internal armed conflict”.

Under the planned new rules, war materiel could be shipped to such countries “if there is no reason to believe that the war materiel to be exported will be used in an internal armed conflict”.

But Seco said “classic civil war countries” such as Syria would “neither now or in the future” receive war materiel from Switzerland.

There was no connection between the discovery of Ruag grenades in Syria and the current revision of weapons export rules, Seco added in comments made to SDA.

But the proposed rule changes were vigorously criticised over the weekend by International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer who said exported war materiel often ended up in conflict zones at some stage.

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