ISIS Bio Warfare Chief in Custody, Is Talking

Tells US about use of mustard gas
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2016 11:44 AM CST
ISIS Bio Warfare Chief in Custody, Is Talking
In this 2013 photo, a UN staffer examines a suspected chemical weapons canister in a suburb of Damascus, Syria.   (Media Office Of Moadamiyeh via AP, File)

Reports surfaced last week that US special forces had captured a prominent but unidentified player in the Islamic State, and it turns out those reports weren't exaggerated. The detainee in Iraq has been identified as the head of the group's burgeoning chemical weapons unit, reports the AP. Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, thought to be about 50, previously worked in Saddam Hussein's military with the same specialty. He's been in US custody for a month now and has given up information about how ISIS converts mustard gas into powder for use in artillery shells, reports the New York Times. Evidence of such weapons has turned up in Syria and Iraq.

A defense official tells the Times that these ISIS shells are potent enough to maim but not kill. What remains unclear is how the group got its hands on the sulfur mustard needed for the weaponry. Also not clear is exactly what kind of information al-Afari has given up, though the AP reports that the US-led coalition has conducted airstrikes on suspected chemical facilities in Iraq within the last week. The US says it plans to turn over the prisoner to Iraqi or Kurdish authorities eventually, and a representative from the International Committee of the Red Cross has visited him in custody. (More ISIS stories.)

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