Iraqi intelligence officials are reporting U.S. special operators seized the head of Islamic State’s chemical weapons unit.
Sleiman Daoud al-Afari was captured in February near Tal Afar, a town located in northern Iraq. He apparently served in former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s regime as part of the Military Industrialization Authority, where he worked on chemical and biological warfare, The Associated Press reports.
Al-Afari has already provided detailed information to U.S. interrogators on how ISIS has developed mustard gas and inserted it into artillery shells.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced in December the deployment of special operators to Iraq for the purpose of capturing high-level ISIS officials. With al-Afari in custody, the ISIS chemical weapons unit will likely suffer a major setback, not to mention al-Afari will almost certainly give up additional useful intelligence for future raids.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed February ISIS had deployed chemical weapons in both Iraq and Syria, specifically mustard gas, following intelligence reports in November, 2015, the group was aggressively pursuing a chemical weapons development program. ISIS apparently is shooting to create more advanced nerve agents, but is not quite there yet.
“They now have complete freedom to select locations for their labs and production sites and have a wide range of experts, both civilians and military, to aid them,” an Iraqi intelligence official told The Associated Press at the time.
A report from the European Parliament in December, 2015, told member states in the European Union they should prepare for the possibility of an ISIS-instigated chemical weapons attack. The report notes ISIS may have come into contact with chemical weapons equipment when it took over parts of northern Iraq in 2014.
But talk of a chemical weapons development team was already predated by several claims of chemical weapons use already in early 2015. Doctors Without Borders claimed ISIS used mustard gas in August, and the Kurdistan Region Security Council said ISIS had hit Peshmerga fighters with chlorine gas.
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