The Islamic State’s Suicide Fighters
… make sure not to give any promises that they are coming back…
OE Watch Commentary: The “inghimasi,” a term which may be roughly translated as “suicide fighter,” is arguably the most important soldier for the Islamic State (IS). Suicide fighters often work in tandem with suicide bombers, but the two are different in that the inghimasi are usually on foot, armed with grenades and light weapons, and operating in a group, while IS suicide bombers tend to sit alone at the helm of explosives-laden vehicles. On the battlefield suicide fighters function as shock troops, seeking to loosen up enemy defenses. They are also dispatched in small teams to strike nonmilitary targets, as in the attacks on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli in late January and the Bardo Museum in Tunis this past March. They go into battle with the expectation of not returning.
On 29 April a photograph circulated online depicting a directive allegedly issued by the upper echelons of IS leadership and attributed to an Aleppo branch office. The document, which was translated by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) and is excerpted alongside this commentary, calls for the immediate mobilization of Syrian fighters to support IS battles in Iraq’s al-Anbar and Salahuddin Provinces. In particular, it requests that suicide bombers and suicide fighters be mobilized.
The CTC translation defines inghimasi fighters as “those who submerse in enemy’s line with no intent to come back alive.” This definition is true to the term’s Arabic meaning (to plunge, become immersed), while also capturing the important assumption of no return. The term is fairly new and began appearing with some regularity in Arabic-language media in the second half of 2013. It seems to be a standard category for IS fighters, as shown by the excerpted testimonial from a Tunisian IS defector, who upon joining the group was given a choice between registering as a suicide bomber, an inghimasi, or a regular fighter.
Although the term is associated with the conflict in Iraq and Syria and the IS in particular, it has also received attention in Yemen, as illustrated by the accompanying November 2013 article from the Yemeni press. Interestingly, this article emphasizes the subversive aspects of infiltrating enemy lines, specifically by donning the enemy’s uniform.
The IS’s major victories in Syria have generally involved a swarm of suicide fighters, one or more vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED), and heavy gunfire from several different directions. Roughly speaking, this is how the IS took over three Syrian Army bases in Raqqa Province in the second half of 2014, as the fourth accompanying excerpt notes. The IS has also used this tactic, thus far unsuccessfully, in its attempts to take over Syrian military positions in Dayr az Zawr.
So long as it is able to continue recruiting, the IS is likely to continue relying on suicide fighters both for its military offensives and its attacks against soft targets. End OE Watch Commentary (Winter)
Source: “Let your blood be [the Caliphate’s] fuel,” Islamic State Aleppo Province. 27 April 2015. (translation via:
Do not let the filthy Rafida get your brothers in those wilayat while there is still blood in your veins. None of you should save any efforts to support them. Defend God’s religion, and call upon the brothers in your regions to join the fight, headed by martyr seekers and inghimasies [those who submerse in enemy’s lines with no intent to come back alive]. Make sure that they are religiously dedicated, patient ones and war experts who don’t look back, fight and don’t lay down their weapons until they get killed or God grants them victory. When picking them, make sure that they voluntarily want to go [to fight in those two provinces]. Also, make sure not to give any promises that they are coming back or taking any leave before God grants his worshipers victory….
Source: “Ex-ISIS Testimony - Abu Musab al-Tunisi Speaks of His Experiences in ISIS and Why He Left?” 23 February 2014.
…6. So when I arrived they took my personal details and they asked do you want to register as fighter, inghimasi or suicide bomber?
7. Translator Note: Inghimasi means someone that enters battle where he most likely won’t survive
8. I said I want Inghimasi, but of course suicide bombings are the root of Jihad. But I wanted Inghimasi.
9. So I stayed in “guest house 10” I stayed for some days waiting for the training camp, after some days they took me to a frontline…
Source: Miftah al-Zawba. “Inghimasiin in Yemen: a human smart bomb produced by al-Qaeda,” 6 November 2013.
… someone who follows al-Qaeda told me that the inghimasiin are the new recruits (he did not specify whether they were soldiers or merely gunmen). He added that the fighters had to wear military uniform to be considered inghimasiin by al-Qaeda. Are these inghimasiin soldiers who were recruited?…
Source: Awad Mustafa. “Islamic State Relying More on Suicide Squads,” DefenseNews. 27 August 2014.
Hassan said the Inghimasy suicide team gets into close-quarter positions on the front lines. “If they succeed they move from one area to another. If they fail to break through, they blow themselves up and their opposition, creating holes in the enemy lines.” Syrian government forces could not afford to send support to the base because of the continuous flow of the Inghimasy fighters, as that would drain their already stretched resources.