The terrorist group ISIS, already a threat in the Middle East and Europe, may have just upped the ante in their war against their enemies. A captured ISIS commander has now informed American interrogators the Islamic State does indeed possess chemical weapons.
U.S. forces captured the ISIS operative three weeks ago, and said he has intimate knowledge of the terror organization’s budding program of producing and acquiring chemical weapons. The information he has shared with his questioners has already provided the U.S. with enough intelligence to begin striking ISIS areas in Iraq associated with the group’s chemical weapons program. A U.S. official confirmed that the goal is to locate, target, and carry out strikes to destroy ISIS’s entire chemical weapons enterprise — mainly mustard gas, which ISIS is known to produce itself.
In the past week alone, U.S. forces have struck what they call “improvised weapons facilities” and other targets near Mosul, Iraq, but military officials have declined to say if these facilities were producing chemical agents.
What concerns American military leaders the most about learning ISIS is producing a form of chemical weapon is that they might be tempted to use them against civilian populations or U.S. forces, who are providing assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces which are seeking to degrade and destroy the terrorist group.
It was also revealed this week that a senior ISIS leader, known as Omar “the Chechen,” was probably killed in a U.S. airstrike in Syria. Abu Omar al-Shishani, the ISIS leader believed killed in the strike, is known as one of ISIS’ most capable commanders. There was a $5 million reward for his capture or death from the U.S. State Department. Shishani is a former member of an elite Georgian military unit.
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Ash Carter acknowledged the creation of an Expeditionary Targeting Force, composed of about 200 American Special Operations forces that are engaged in gathering intelligence and capturing or killing ISIS operatives they located in Iraq and Syria. Carter noted:
‘It’s a tool that we introduced as part of our — the accelerated operations to conduct raids of various kinds, seizing places and people, freeing hostages and prisoners of ISIL, and making it such that ISIL has to fear that anywhere, anytime, it may be struck.’
But if ISIS has the ability to produce mustard gas, does this mean they’re also working on other chemical weapons such as nerve gas or biological agents? U.S. officials will not speculate on the possibility, but the very idea of a group as vicious and nihilistic as ISIS gaining such weapons of mass destruction is chilling.
The CIA has also confirmed that ISIS is using chemical weapons, as you can see in this report from CBS News: