Is ISIL Developing Chemical Weapons Capability?

061027-N-4515N- 227 Fort Story, Va. (Oct. 27, 2006) - Explosive Ordnance Technician 2nd Class Ian Jordan and Lt. j.g. Eric Hui from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Two (EODMU-2), run tests on substances for an exercise on chemical warfare. This event was one of many during the EOD Top-Tech Challenge 2006, hosted by EOD Training and Evaluation Unit Two. U.S Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Apprentice Joshua Nuzzo (RELEASED)

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U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and lawmakers expressed concern that Islamic State is moving to develop chemical weapons even as the U.S.-led coalition makes progress against the terrorist group in Iraq.

The coalition is “going after ISIL’s attempts to develop chemical weapons, as we continue to ensure that U.S., coalition and Iraqi troops are vigilantly protected from that threat,” Carter said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

A pharmaceutical facility recently destroyed near Mosul, Iraq, was intended for use as a chemical weapons plant. Pentagon officials have said the plant was intended to produce chlorine gas. A rocket that may have carried a chemical agent landed near the security perimeter at the Qayyarah airbase in Iraq, where hundreds of U.S. personnel are stationed to support the planned Iraqi assault to retake Mosul. Tests on the rocket were continuing.

According to Bloomberg.com, a top Iraqi general said in a phone interview that Islamic State has tried to use “expired” chemical weapons against his nation’s troops before with “no real impact on our forces.” “They are desperate and collapsing and try to use these attacks for psychological reasons only,” said General Najim Abdullah al-Jabouri, who is leading the campaign to retake Mosul.

Carter told the Senate panel that the coalition is making progress in countering Islamic State, with the aim of moving on the militants’ strongholds in Mosul and Raqqa, Syria. The “final assault” on Mosul will begin when Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi gives the order, Carter said.