On the run and with dwindling numbers after losing key strongholds in Syria, ISIS fighters have begun replenishing their ranks with cows they intend to use for suicide bombings.
On Saturday, residents in the Iraqi village of Al Islah first saw the new suicide bomber cows being equipped with explosives just north of Al Islah before wandering close to the village and being detonated, according to the New York Times.
Col. Ghalib Al-Atyia, the spokesman for the police in Iraq’s Diyala Province, said the bombs damaged nearby houses but did not manage to harm or kill any people.
In his assessment, Colonel Al-Atyia said ISIS lacks the necessary manpower to recruit humans for suicide bombings. He credits four years of U.S. backed Iraqi security forces fighting ISIS for the gaps in the terrorist group’s manpower.
ISIS has lost ground in both Iraq and Syria, and thousands of ISIS members surrendered following the loss of their territory in Baghouz, Syria in March.
Though the methodology of the most recent attack is already unprecedented, several witnesses said the attack also seemed like a bizarre waste of a cow, as they are prized for their meat and milk and often sell for more than $1,200.
Dead cows, on the other hand, have been used in previous conflicts, such as Iraq’s civil war between 2003 and 2009. During that time, insurgents claiming ties to al Qaeda in Iraq reportedly placed bombs inside and under livestock that had been killed, expecting the bombs to be detonated by farmers removing the slain animals.
In Afghanistan, donkeys were used on occasion to carry suicide bombs into the presence of NATO forces.
Northeastern Diyala has seen numerous ISIS attacks in the last year, including mortar attacks and roadside bombs. Al Islah, which is situated close to roads leading to other provinces, has been targeted in many of those attacks.
Iraqi security forces had previously reported Al Islah had been secured.
Though the attack failed to harm any people, Colonel Al-Atyia said the attack may have achieved part of the desired effect, reminding the village residents that ISIS still has a presence in their area.
Security officials in the Diyala Police said the cows may have been contributed to ISIS by supporters in neighboring villages.
The attack shows ISIS fighters have the means to sneak bombs close to areas secured by Iraqi security forces. The ISIS attackers who detonated the bombs also had to do so from some nearby position. It remains to be seen if cows will continue to be used in facilitating future attacks, or if the move is just one of several unconventional methods.