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Islamic State’s Rogue Use of Chemical Weapons – a Clear and Present Danger

Dr. Jill Bellamy, noted bio defense expert and member of the UN Counterterrorism Task Force, has warned repeatedly about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) development and test of CBRN weapons in Syria, Iraq and potentially in Europe. She has also drawn attention to vast resources of the Islamic State to create Chemical and Biological weapons laboratories and scientific figures from the regime of late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.  In several Lisa Benson Show programs she has drawn attention to the likelihood of use of CBRN weapons in the EU, given revelations  following the Brussels airport and subway bombings, about the  Brussels  ISIL terrorist cell attempts to kidnap Belgian nuclear research  experts and  obtain radio isotopes for creation of dirty bomb terror weapons.   Note this from a January 2016 New English Review interview article with Dr. Bellamy:

In conversations with Dr. Bellamy she had raised the threat that the Islamic State with more than $1 billion in funding from smuggled oil sales, extortion and looted bank hard currency and gold reserves could acquire the professional staff of scientists and technicians and equip laboratories for production of leading edge synthetic biological weapons. She had also drawn concern over foreign ISIS fighters in Libya gaining control of Gaddafi-era chemical weapons caches sealed by the UN.

Bellamy’s response on chemical weapons threat of ISIL:

We have seen IS’ capability of using chemical weapons. On several occasions, they have used mustard agents. They have also used sarin. This has been confirmed by the UN. We have a situation where they have already been using it in the Caliphate. The potential that they could bring this into Europe is extremely high. This is very easy using the refugee routes. Thus chemical weapons use in [Europe] could result in mass casualties.

To illustrate Dr. Bellamy’s prescient concerns, one can read into a U.K. Telegraph article published, May 22, 2016 on the redeployment of ISIL Chemical weapons laboratories and former Saddam Hussein experts to residential areas in preparation for the potential battle by Iraqi Forces to retake Mosul.  Note these excerpts:

ISIL has moved its chemical weapons operation to densely populated residential areas and is testing homemade chlorine and mustard gas on its prisoners, residents of the Iraqi city of Mosul have claimed.

ISIL is reported to have set up laboratories in built-up neighborhoods in the heart of its so-called caliphate to avoid being targeted by coalition air strikes.

The terror group is known to harbor chemical and nuclear ambitions, and is trying to manufacture weapons not only for attacks within Iraq and Syria but also the West.

It has a special unit for chemical weapons research made up of Iraqi scientists who worked on weapons programs under Saddam Hussein, as well as foreign experts.

The head of the unit, Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, was captured during a raid by US Special Forces outside Mosul in March and is now sharing intelligence on ISIL’s chemical weapons operation.

An investigation by Syrian and Iraqi citizen journalists who report under the name Sound and Picture reveal he has now been replaced by Abu Shaima, an Iraqi doctor who worked at the University of Baghdad during Saddam’s reign.

Other than his links to the late Iraqi dictator little is known about Shaima, which is customary for top ISIL leaders.

The evidence of ISIL CW testing in Mosul residential areas:

Residents of al-Mohandseen – which had been a wealthy Christian neighborhood until ISIL seized the city – said several houses had been taken over by ISIL officials in the last few weeks. A number of large unmarked trucks have been parked outside and more recently they reported seeing dozens of dead dogs and rabbits in nearby rubbish containers.

An ISIL insider confirmed to the journalists, who shared the information with the Telegraph, that they had been dumped there after they were used for chemical testing.

The report also claimed ISIL has been carrying out experiments on prisoners they are holding at a secret jail in al-Andalus, in the Nineveh governorate of Mosul, exposing them to chlorine and mustard gas to test the toxicity.

Residents near the prison have reported breathing difficulties and children developing severe rashes – some of the side effects of exposure to such substances.

The stockpiles and indiscriminate use of CW by ISIL:

The extremists have seized large quantities of industrial chlorine and are believed to have the expertise to make mustard gas. They are also feared to have captured chemical weapon stocks from Bashar al-Assad’s regime across the border in Syria.

The militant group has already used chemical weapons against Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq and Syria.

In March, a suspected ISIL chemical attack on the Iraqi town of Taza, south of Kirkuk, killed three children and wounded some 1,500 people, with injuries ranging from burns to rashes and respiratory problems.

Brig Roger Noble, the deputy commander of international troops training and supporting the Iraqi army, told the Telegraph that ISIL militants are expected to use chemical weapons against troops trying to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second city.

Witness this warning from a former UK military expert on CBRN about this ISIS CW threat:

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commanding officer of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment (CBRN) and chemical weapons adviser to NGOs in Syria and Iraq, told The Telegraph:

“ISIL’s chemical weapons operation has been heavily targeted – as is detailed in this report – and moving into residential areas is exactly what you would expect them to do now.”

He said Western security services should be concerned that their chemical operations have effectively gone underground, allowing them to continue their work outside of strike range.

“Now we know the extent of the ISIL chemical and dirty bomb aspirations we must make doubly sure that our security in the UK is absolutely water-tight against this threat.”

This warning about ISIL’s rogue use of CW confirms Dr. Bellamy’s prescient warning that defense against such threats to our troops and civilians there  and in the West should be cause to make them “water tight”.  Unfortunately, ISIL is not bound to international conventions in the banning and use of Chemical Weapons, as evidenced by mass casualties in both Iraq and Syria. The laboratories, personnel that produce them and the stockpiles must be captured and destroyed. The track record in alleged use of Sarin gas on civilians in Syria and intervention of the Office for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons suggests that these defenses are far from “water tight”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Nat Sec Daily Brief.

Confirmed: Islamic State Used Mustard Gas to Attack Kurds

Independent experts confirmed that attacks on Kurdish fighters in Iraq last August used mustard gas, in addition to previous attacks in Syria.

The Islamic State used mustard gas in attacks on Kurdish fighters in Iraq last year, Reuters reported it has now been confirmed.

An independent analysis of samples from the battlefield confirmed mustard gas was used in an attack last August in which 35 Kurdish soldiers were poisoned and showed symptoms of the chemical agent. Mustard gas is a chemical weapon first used in World War I, which burns the lungs and eyes.

The analysis was carried out by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The tests confirmed the gas was used by the Islamic State, an unnamed diplomat told the press on condition of anonymity.

The OPCW also found evidence that sarin gas has been used in Syria, although it is unclear in what circumstances.

Confirmation of the attack in Iraq follows proff that the Islamic State used mustard gas in Syria last October.

One diplomat speculated ISIS had captured its chemical weapons from the Syrian regime. “If Syria has indeed given up its chemical weapons to the international community, it is only the part that has been declared to the OPCW and the declaration was obviously incomplete,” the diplomat told Reuters.

Another theory is that ISIS is manufacturing its own mustard gas. “I’m pretty convinced that the mustard IS are using in Iraq is made by them in Mosul,” chemical weapons specialist Hamish de Bretton-Gordon told Reuters. “They have all the precursors at hand from the oil industry and all the experts at hand to do it.”

Watch the original report from August about the attacks:

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Islamic State recruiting ‘highly trained foreigners’ to produce chemical weapons

How can they attract “highly trained foreigners” when they represent, as every Western authority will tell us, a twisted version of Islam that outrages all of the true, peaceful principles of the religion? The cognitive dissonance is absolute, but no one in any position of power or influence seems to notice or care.

“Isis recruiting ‘highly trained foreigners’ to produce chemical weapons,” by Alexander Ward, the Independent, June 7, 2015:

The terrorist group Isis is recruiting “highly trained professionals” to make chemical weapons – and has already used them in an attack.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, said the group was now undertaking “serious efforts” to develop their chemical weapons arsenal.

Speaking to the Australia Group, which is composed of nations against chemical weapons, she said: “Da’esh [Isis] is likely to have amongst its tens of thousands of recruits the technical expertise necessary to further refine precursor materials and build chemical weapons,” Ms Bishop added.

Ms Bishop’s speech is the latest concern that Isis is attempting to acquire nuclear and chemical and biological weapons, after India warned the extremists could obtain a nuclear weapon from Pakistan.

It was reported in March that Isis had been attacking Iraqi soldiers with roadside bombs containing chlorine gas in fighting around Tikrit, after footage emerged showing plumes of orange smoke emerging for the bombs.

It follows similar allegations that the extremists had released toxic gases in the eastern district of Kobani, during the siege of the town on the Syrian border, although it could not be confirmed.

Ms Bishop added: “Apart from some crude and small scale endeavours, the conventional wisdom has been that the terrorist intention to acquire and weaponise chemical agents has been largely aspirational.

“The use of chlorine by Da’esh [Isis], and its recruitment of highly trained professionals, including from the West, have revealed far more serious efforts in chemical weapons development.”…

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Special Report: Did ISIS Use Chemical Weapons Against the Kurds in Kobani? by Jonathan Spyer

WARNING:  This post contains images which some readers may find disturbing.  Caution is advised.  Please scroll down to view these images.

The fate of Kobani city now hangs in the balance, as around 9000 fighters of the Islamic State organization close in on the Kurdish held area. The current IS assault on the Kobani enclave was not the first attempt by the jihadis to destroy the Kurdish-controlled area.

The Kobani enclave, most of which is now in the hands of the IS, at one time extended to Tel Abyad in the east, and Jarabulus in the west.

It constituted a major hindrance to the desire of the jihadis to maintain free passage for their fighters from Raqqa city up to the Turkish border and westwards towards the front lines in Aleppo province. IS has therefore long sought to destroy it.

Prior to the current campaign, the most serious (but unsuccessful) attempt to conquer Kobani came in July 2014, shortly following the dramatic IS advance into Iraq.

It was during this assault on Kobani that evidence emerged which appeared to point to the use by the Islamic State on at least one occasion of some kind of chemical agent against the Kurdish fighters of the YPG (Peoples’ Protection Units).

The July offensive commenced on July 2. According to Kurdish activists, the use of the chemical agent took place on July 12th, in the village of Avdiko, in the eastern part of the Kobani enclave (now in IS hands.)

Nisan Ahmed, health minister of the Kurdish authority in Kobani, established a medical team to examine the incident.

According to Ahmed, the bodies of three Kurdish fighters showed no signs of damage from bullets.

Rather “burns and white spots on the bodies of the dead indicated the use of chemicals, which led to death without any visible wounds or external bleeding.” [ii]

Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA Journal) has acquired exclusive access to photographs of the bodies of these fighters, which appear below for the first time.

According to expert Israeli sources who have seen the pictures, they appear to indicate the use of some form of chemical agent, probably mustard (blister agent), but it is not possible to conclusively confirm this without further investigation.

Where might IS have acquired these agents?

According to a report in the Arabic language Al-Modon website on July 16th, eyewitnesses in Raqqa city assert the existence of a facility close to the city containing chemical agents. [iii] The reliability of the eyewitness quoted has been indicated to MERIA by third parties.

It is possible that these were transferred to Raqqa from Iraq, following the capture of the Muthanna compound 35 miles north-west of Iraq, by IS in June.

Iraq’s ambassador Mohammed Ali Al-Hakim, speaking after the capture of Muthanna by IS, singled out two bunkers at the facility, 13 and 41, as being of particular concern.

According to a UN report compiled after the departure of UN inspectors and quoted by Associated Press, bunker 41 contained “2,000 empty 155mm artillery shells contaminated with the chemical warfare agent mustard, 605 one-tonne mustard containers with residues, and heavily contaminated construction material.

At the time, the US State Department’s Jen Psaki played down the importance of the capture of Muthanna. Psaki suggested that the facility contained “degraded chemical remnants” but that it would be “difficult, if not impossible, to safely use this for military purposes or, frankly, to move it.” [iv]

A CIA report from 2007, however, offers evidence that might challenge Psaki’s apparent absence of concern.

The report notes that “The precursor and agent production area at Al Muthanna was not completely destroyed during Desert Storm. Portions of the mustard (blister agent) production and storage area survived. The VX and Tabun production (nerve agent) facilities were incapacitated.” [v]

The report further observes that “ISG is unable to unambiguously determine the complete fate of old munitions, materials, and chemicals produced and stored there. The matter is further complicated by the looting and razing done by the Iraqis.” [vi]

With regard to the state of al-Muthanna at the time that the report was composed (2007), it observes that Stockpiles of chemical munitions are still stored there. The most dangerous ones have been declared to the UN and are sealed in bunkers. Although declared, the bunkers contents have yet to be confirmed.

Numerous bunkers, including eleven cruciform shaped bunkers were exploited. Some of the bunkers were empty. Some of the bunkers contained large quantities of unfilled chemical munitions. [vii]

So the CIA report confirms that al-Muthanna was used for the production of chemical weaponry including mustard agent. The report also confirms that investigations have been unable to ‘unambiguously determine’ the fate of munitions at the site, and that while stockpiles clearly are stored at the site, the precise nature of these stockpiles remains unconfirmed. There are no indications that this situation has changed in the period since the report.

The evidence appears to support the contention that on at least one occasion, Islamic State forces did employ some form of chemical agent, acquired from somewhere, against the YPG in Kobani.

No further instances have been reported. The evidence also indicates that it is likely that as a result of the capture of the al-Muthanna compound, stockpiles of chemical munitions have come into the group’s possession.

The incident at Avdiko village on July 12th suggests that IS may well have succeeded in making some of this material available for use in combat.

The probable possession by the Islamic State of a CW capability is for obvious reasons a matter of the gravest concern, and should be the urgent subject of further attention and investigation.

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[i] Conversations with Kurdish activists, July, 2014.

[ii] Hadi Salameh, ‘Did ISIS use chemical weapons against the Syrian Kurds,’ July 16th, Al-Modon. (Arabic). http://www.almodon.com

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Associated Press, July 9th, 2014.http://www.theguardian.com

[v] Al Muthanna Chemical Weapons Complex, Iraq’s Chemical Warfare Program – Annex B, April 23, 2007. https://www.cia.gov

[vi] Ibid.

[vii]

ABOUT DR. JONATHAN SPYER

Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of The Transforming Fire: The Rise of the Israel-Islamist Conflict (Continuum, 2010) and a columnist at the Jerusalem Post newspaper. Spyer holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics and a Masters’ Degree in Middle East Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. His blog can be followed at: http://jonathanspyer.com/.