The owner of a small toy store in al-Mansur, a Baghdad neighborhood five kilometers from the Green Zone, Abu Abdullah sells a variety of remote-control vehicles. Some of his recent customers have been Iraq’s notorious Shia militiamen, eager to purchase the handful of hobbyist drones available.
“They’ve come here to buy drones before, Abu Abdullah tells WIRED. “I don’t know why. Those drones aren’t particularly effective or useful. They’re toys.”
When Isis overran Mosul and Tikrit two years ago, Iraqis who had lost faith in their military rallied behind the Iranian-backed Shia militias. Lacking the advanced technology available to the American-led coalition and the Iraqi government, many militias have resorted to consumer drones to help with intelligence gathering.