Elements belonging to the Islamic State fired an artillery shell full of deadly gas at U.S. troops on a base in Iraq Tuesday, confirmed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“We assess it to be a sulfur-mustard blister agent,” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford told the Senate Committee on Armed Services during testimony Thursday.
Dunford said the shell hit the U.S. base in Qayara West, a strategically crucial air base recently retaken from ISIS in northern Iraq. U.S. troops are currently using the base as a staging area to train and advise the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in preparation for a pending assault on the city of Mosul.
No personnel were injured in the attack, said Dunford, noting that U.S. personnel are equipped to protect themselves against chemical attacks.
“It wasn’t particularly effective but it was a concerning development,” said Dunford.
ISIS forces have been accused of using chemical weapons several times since the terror group’s initial rise in 2014. The Kurdish Peshmerga have allegedly been a main target of the group’s chemical weapons, having accused ISIS of firing mustard gas on their troops in August 2015. It is believed that most of ISIS’s chemical weapons were stolen from stockpiles belonging to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
ISIS has made chemical weapons production a priority, having created dedicated chemical weapons units within its ranks. CIA Director John Brennan confirmed in February that the terrorist group has the ability to produce chlorine and mustard gas. He also warned that ISIS may consider smuggling the weapons to the West for use in a potential terrorist attack.
U.S. forces apprehended Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, the chief of ISIS’s chemical weapons program in February. Using intelligence gathered from Afari, U.S. forces were able to strike two ISIS chemical weapons factories in Mosul. The terror group is known to have raided the chemistry equipment at Mosul University after seizing the city in early 2014, which Pentagon officials say could be used to produce various types of chemical agents.
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