Damascus: A large cache of homemade bombs has been discovered in a town in northern Syria recently liberated from the so-called Islamic State – giving a chilling glimpse into the terror group’s war machine.
There are booby-trapped devices everywhere. One is outside the old library and another two at the entrance to what appears to be a medical station treating the injured.
The bombs are packed into kitchen pots and pans and other household appliances and are a variety of sizes.
Among the cache there was at least one rigged suicide vest and a batch of pressure plates stacked next to barrels stuffed with explosives.
There are artillery shells from Latakia, a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
There are also rockets still in their casings. This will be used as proof that the Syrian leader is in league with the IS fighters and is funding and supplying them.
Al Shaddadi is now a ghost town, less than a fortnight after the armed group making up the Syrian Democratic Forces marched in, in the wake of a multitude of coalition air strikes.
Key installations like the IS police station are reduced to rubble. A makeshift gallows is still rigged up outside some 15ft up an electricity pylon.
“This is where they used to hang people so others could see them,” one Syrian activist told us.
Al Shaddadi is geographically and strategically important because of its oil and gas facilities and its location.
It’s the last major town before the IS headquarters of Raqqa. Taking it from the terror group is being seen as an important military success for those attempting to topple the terror group and reduce its stranglehold on parts of Syria.
We were one of the first outsiders into the town after IS fighters fled less than two weeks ago and it was a chilling insight into life under the terror group.
The group’s black slogans are hung around the town. Each shop has its stamp on the exterior, every house is denoted by a black IS number.
Inside there are unfinished meals in some and the remnants of IS fighters’ lives scattered all around.
Among the debris we found a salary slip showing the fighter had been paid $125 per month. There were military reports showing he’d fought in Raqqa, Al Hasakah in northern Syria as well as Anbar province in Iraq.
A lot of personal information shows he had eight wives and he bought one woman as a sex slave and she had four children. It even gives detail about his blood type and his shoe size.
A large building was turned into what became known as the “rape house”, where they took women for sex.
In it, rigged bombs are left attached to light switches.
There were leaflets showing how the women should dress in all-covering black material from head to toe.
One lone family still sheltering in one house told us if any woman showed flesh they would be prodded with electrical sticks as punishment. No woman was allowed outside unless accompanied by a male relative.
In the backyards of many of the fighters’ homes, they had built bunkers, some made comfortable with cushions and mattresses.
In the back room of one house we found a much more elaborate structure with a 20ft-deep shaft complete with an oxygen supply which led to a long tunnel they were attempting to build.
Soldiers of the Syrian Democratic forces made up mostly of the Kurdish YPG led us to a dark, unlit room where they had gathered pieces of archaeological treasure.
They believe they date from 6,000 to 8,000 years ago and may have been used by the IS group to fund their military campaign.