Historically speaking, car bomb usage has been reserved for use by terrorists in civilian areas. A nondescript civilian vehicle filled with explosives would detonate at a target, causing deaths and wreaking havoc. While that statement partly stands true today, there’s one place where car bomb usage has adapted and changed. Anyone who’s familiarized themselves with the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq is bound to have seen an Islamic State suicide car bomb. Used on the frontlines of an active war, these rolling bombs are outfitted with improvised armor plating of varying degrees and design in true Mad Max fashion.

Last year alone, Islamic State (hereafter IS) claimed 815 suicide car bombs, the most ever used in a single year by a group. In order to find out how car bomb usage has changed and adapted throughout the years, I will explore the history of car bomb usage by IS and its predecessors, from the inception of the Iraq war in 2003 to the present day. I will also examine contemporary car bomb usage by IS through analysis of 18 months worth of official IS video releases. Furthermore, I will take a look at the ongoing battle of Mosul and the devastating car bomb tactics used by IS there.

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