It sounds like something straight out of Call of Duty video game sequel, James Bond movie, or Batman comic. Troops call in an air strike, but instead of high explosives, the pilots employ a weapon that screws with the enemy’s electronics, disabling them or making them catch fire or even explode, becoming little bombs in of themselves. But it’s not a plot device from a Hollywood blockbuster or video game. It’s a detail passed along from a journalist in Syria – and what’s more, some part of the report might be true. We’ve seen at least one similar rumor emanating from a modern battlefield in the past.
The new report emerged on July 7, 2017, when Jenan Moussa, a “roving reporter Arabic Al Aan TV,” an Arabic-language satellite television network with its headquarters in the United Arab Emirates, wrote on Twitter that members of the U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces told her American warplanes sometimes dropped an “electricity bomb.” The SDF fighters added that when the weapon went off, anyone carrying metallic items would “burn.”
“They call it electricity bomb here bcz [because] they don’t know real name,” Moussa wrote in a string of Tweets that included video and pictures from the city of Raqqa, ISIS’ de facto capital. “When plane wants to drop electricity bomb, we are told to drop anything metal that we carry. Otherwise we also burn like ISIS fighters.”
Right from the start it sound like a conspiracy theory and many are likely to quickly dismiss it as such. To be sure, the idea that a “bomb” would cause metal objects to become so hot as to burn anyone carrying them, or any similar effect sounds like an easy recipe for a civilian casualty nightmare with the potential for innocent people to get burned at the dinner table by their own silverware and children to get injured by their metal toys. But what if it wasn’t a bomb or a missile, at least in the traditional sense?
What if the weapon described by fighters to Moussa was…