Britain’s The Daily Express has dubbed them “ISIS condom bombs,” but ISIS isn’t using them and one Syrian rebel who is has a question for the right-wing tabloid: “Can there be 3 meter-long condoms?!”
In an act of equal desperation and ingenuity, Syrian rebels have created helium balloon air mines—floatable explosives—which they hope will help down or deter Russian fighter jets.
Realizing that the prospects for a U.S.-imposed no-fly zone in northern Syria are now slim and none, thanks to Vladimir Putin’s intervention in the conflict, rebels have taken the initiative to try and install their own, admittedly dicey and makeshift equivalent to one. It’s just the latest installment of a do-it-yourself insurgency which began at the start of the Syrian civil war. Rebels have previously used Playstation controllers to navigate home-made tanks, built their own “hell cannons” in converted weapons factories, cobbled together a giant grenade slingshot, and manufactured their own armoured personnel carriers and devastating tunnel bombs.
Now come the balloon bombs.
The Daily Beast spoke to “Majd,” one of the rebels responsible for the initiative, who is based in the rural Aleppo and Idlib areas after we discovered a YouTube videos showing how the improved explosive device works. “Praise be to God,” he said, “we are seven brothers. There are only five of us left now. We like manufacturing and we worked on this together with the aid of a few brothers.”
“The idea in short is to create a no-fly zone with the blessing of Allah, and the togetherness of Syrians and Muslim mujahideen,” or holy warriors—but not ISIS. “They’re saying we’re ISIS although we live in the midst of Free Syrian Army and al-Nusra areas and amid revolutionary factions, most factions work with us and support us,” Majd said.
The videos posted show the group releasing dozens of the balloons attached to crude IEDs being sent into the sky to the sound of Islamic nasheeds, or religious chants, with “Fuck Russia” graffitied onto a nearby wall.
“We blow up the balloons bearing the mines at an altitude of 4-6 km. And we can blow them up at greater altitudes but it’s not necessary.
The explosion is done via timers and remote controls and the detonators run on a battery.”
“The explosive balloons don’t appear on the radar because we send more than 100 balloons every launch at one time and among them ten balloons are laden with mines. The 100 balloons are to create distortion and among them are those bearing solid forms with impact that damages the aircraft.”
“They are essentially balloons filled with hydrogen or helium and they are attached to mines,” Majd explained. “I can’t explain more as not to expose the details to our enemies.”
“In a few days we will expand our work to Homs and other cities and spread this idea to all mujahideen, God willing.”
When asked if the devices poses any danger to civilians on the ground, Majd responded, “Most balloons carrying mines are in secluded areas whose people have been displaced. Anyway, the mines have timers, and some of them are remote controlled and we haven’t faced any problems regarding this yet.”
He also said that the mines are either on timers or controlled by a mechanism on the ground. Those not detonated aerially can be safely brought back to earth.