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US Special Forces captured Sleiman Daud al-Afari, the head of ISIS’ chemical weapons unit. Al-Afari worked for Saddam Hussein’s Military Industrialization Authority, specialising in chemical and biological weapons. He was captured last month in a raid near Tal Afar in northern Iraq. He was a major part of ISIS’ effort to develop chemical arms capabilities, and is now under interrogation.
Two Iraqi officials, who wished to remain anonymous, divulged that 50 year old al-Afari, until his capture, was the head of ISIS’ newly established chemical weaponry research and development division, Homeland Security News Wire reports.
US troops are holding al-Afari at a detention facility in Erbil, Iraq. He apparently informed US officials that ISIS managed to weaponise mustard gas into powder form and load it into artillery shells. US defence officials assessed that the gas was not concentrated enough to kill, but could still cause severe bodily harm and maim victims.
Al-Afari will be handed over to Iraqi and Kurdish authorities after his interrogation, according to the Pentagon.
The US-led coalition has of late been targeting ISIS’ chemical weapons infrastructure with special forces raids and targeted airstrikes, Iraqi officials told The New York Times. Laboratory equipment has been damaged and destroyed in the strikes.
To thwart ISIS’ chemical ambitions even more raids and airstrikes will be carried out against select targets, according to US intelligence sources. The capture of al-Afari, and the killing of senior ISIS leader Abu Omar al-Shishani on 4 March, indicate the escalation approach of the US and allies to the fight against ISIS.