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US strikes IS group chemical weapons sites

A1C Deana Heitzman/US AIR FORCE/AFP | An F-16 Fighting Falcon departs Aviano Air Base, Italy enroute to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve

The US-led coalition has carried out its first air strikes on the Islamic State (IS) group’s chemical weapons sites, the Pentagon said Thursday, acting on information from a captured senior jihadist described as the group's "emir" of chemical arms.


The successful multiple bombings came as a result of intelligence from Sulayman Dawud al-Bakkar, also known as Abu Dawud, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said, confirming the capture of the IS group operative said to be a chemical weapons expert for the extremists.

His capture by US special forces in February appears to have provided a major boost in the fight against the IS group in Iraq and Syria, and Cook said it had yielded almost immediate results.

Al-Bakkar was transferred from US custody Thursday to Iraqi authorities after interrogation, according to Pentagon officials.

Cook said al-Bakkar was "ISIL's emir of chemical and traditional weapons manufacturing", using an alternate acronym for the IS group.

"His capture removed a key ISIL leader from the battlefield, and provided the coalition with important information about ISIL's chemical weapons capabilities," he added.

"Through Dawud, the coalition learned details about ISIL's chemical weapon facilities and production, as well as the people involved. The information has resulted in multiple coalition air strikes that have disrupted and degraded ISIL's ability to produce chemical weapons and will continue to inform our operations in the future."

Details on weaponised mustard gas

On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis declined to confirm that US forces had captured an IS group chemical weapons expert.

But a number of US news media reported the capture by a US Special Operations force made up primarily of Delta Force commandos in northern Iraq.

According to The New York Times, the IS group’s chemical arms expert provided his interrogators with detailed information on how the group weaponised mustard gas into powdered form and loaded it into artillery shells. The weaponised mustard gas was reportedly capable of maiming people but was not concentrated enough to be fatal.

Since the jihadist group began capturing swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014, US and French officials have suspected the group was aggressively seeking to develop a chemical weapons capability.

In an address to parliament shortly after the November 13 attacks in Paris last year, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned that Islamist militants might at some point seek to use chemical or biological weapons.

"We must not rule anything out," said Valls. "I say it with all the precautions needed ... [but] bear in mind that there is also a risk of chemical or biological weapons."

The Paris attacks in November, which claimed 130 lives, was the first attack on a Western nation to be claimed officially by the IS group.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


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