The Islamic State’s captured chemical weapons chief provided intelligence to U.S. military officials that allowed Operation Inherent Resolve forces to conduct air strikes against two ISIS chemical weapons factories, the Pentagon revealed in a press conference Friday.
Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, the head of the ISIS chemical weapons program, was captured by U.S. special operators near the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar in February and held for two weeks before he was turned over to the Iraqi government. Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren confirmed during a press briefing that two strikes on ISIS chemical weapons factories near the Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday and Tuesday were due to information obtained from al-Afari.
ISIS’ chemical weapons capability in Mosul has been of some concern due to the fact that Mosul University is known to have chemistry equipment that could be utilized to produce chemical weapons.
“We know that [ISIS] has a presence at Mosul University,” said Warren, but he was unable to confirm if the terrorist group is actually utilizing the equipment to produce chemical weapons.
The strikes earlier this week apparently were not on the university, but on two facilities surrounding the city. Al-Afari’s information was able to confirm one suspected site and unveiled a new one.
ISIS has been known to employ chlorine and mustard gas against adversaries in Iraq and Syria, though the terrorist group’s capabilities are apparently fairly rudimentary. “The mustard gas they are using is like a home-brew,” noted Warren.
When asked why Afari was held by the U.S. for only two weeks, Warren said that U.S. forces in Iraq do not have the capability to hold ISIS prisoners long-term. He also said that there are no plans to expand the U.S. ability to hold ISIS prisoners, which is why Afari was given to the Iraqis. “If we have to go back and talk to them, we will go back and talk to them,” said Warren regarding ISIS prisoners held by Iraq.
Warren said that the current policy for the U.S. regarding captured ISIS fighters is “short term” and on a “case-by-case” basis.
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