U.S. Detains Islamic State Chemical Engineer, Leads to Two Airstrikes

SYRIA, Damascus : DAMASCUS, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 26: Smoke rises after the war crafts belonging to the Syrian army bombed the residential areas in opposition controlled Al-Qabun town of eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on February 26, 2016. Muhammed Khair / Anadolu Agency
Muhammed Khair / Anadolu Agency/AFP

U.S. officials captured the Islamic State’s top chemical engineer, who has provided information that has so far led to two airstrikes.

Authorities detained Sleiman Daoud al-Afari a month ago in northern Iraq. One official said he held a top position in the terrorist group’s chemical weapons program. Another claimed “he once worked for Saddam Hussein’s Military Industrialization Authority.”

From the New York Times:

The Islamic State’s use of chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria has been known, but Mr. Afari’s capture has provided the United States with the opportunity to learn detailed information about the group’s secretive program, including where chemical agents were being stored and produced.

Under interrogation, Mr. Afari told his captors how the group had weaponized sulfur mustard and loaded it into artillery shells, the officials said. Based on information from Mr. Afari, the United States-led air campaign conducted one strike against a weapons production plant in Mosul, Iraq, and another against a “tactical unit” near Mosul that was believed to be related to the program, the officials said.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services he has evidence the Islamic State used mustard gas in the past.

“[The Syrian government] has used chemicals against the opposition on multiple occasions since Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention. ISIL has also used toxic chemicals in Iraq and Syria, including the blister agent Sulfur mustard,” he said.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed the Islamic State used mustard gas against Kurdish troops last August in Erbil, Iraq. Iraqi Peshmerga officials told Kurdish media outlet Rudaw the Islamic State used the chemical weapons during the attack.

“Last night at least 45 mortar rounds were fired at our positions, which we believe were loaded with chemicals, since the wounds are different,” explained Kurdish commander Muhammad Khoshawi.

Koshawi explored the grounds with a Rudaw reporter. He showed the outlet exact spots where ISIS attacked soldiers. The officials sent evidence to experts, but he said none have released any conclusions.

The video then cuts to medical examinations of wounded soldiers. Khoshawi described how French and American experts concluded that 3 percent to 4 percent of the bodies received burns due to some kind of chemical substance. Soldiers now use gas masks until officials receive confirmation from tests.

In March, the Kurdistan Region Security Council accused the Islamic State of using chlorine gas against Peshmerga fighters in January. The attack occurred between Mosul and the Syrian border. The soldiers “found ‘around 20 gas canisters’ that had been loaded onto the truck involved in the attack.” The affected fighters experienced “dizziness, nausea, vomiting and general weakness.”

The Libyan military warned the world that Islamic State fighters in the country had acquired chemical weapons, including mustard and sarin. Authorities destroyed as many weapons as they could in 2014. However, former dictator Moammar Gadhafi “kept approximately 1,000 cubic tons worth of material used for manufacturing chemical weapons and about 20,000 cubic tons of mustard gas.” These officials said ISIS militants tested the weapons near Tripoli.


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