Islamic State Aggresively Pursuing Chemical Weapons

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul
A fighter of the Islamic State holds an IS flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul / Reuters

The Islamic State has set up a branch to research and experiment with chemical weapons and is receiving help from scientists in Iraq, Syria, and other parts of the world.

Iraqi and U.S. intelligence officials’ knowledge of the terrorist group’s pursuit of chemical weapons, reported by the Associated Press, comes about two months after the Pentagon confirmed that the Islamic State used mustard gas in attacks in Iraq and Syria.

The Islamic State branch researching chemical weapons has solicited help from experts that used to work for  Saddam Hussein’s Military Industrialization Authority, as well as others from Chechnya and southeast Asia. Officials would not disclose how much manpower the branch has.

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Still, U.S. intelligence officials said they do not think the terror group will be able to develop sophisticated chemical weapons like nerve gas or biological agents. So far, there is only evidence of the terrorist group using mustard gas, which produces wounds that resemble blisters or burns.

However, Iraqi officials worry that they lack definite knowledge of the IS program because the terror group controls large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. They also fear that the Islamic State’s use of chemical weapons will widen and have thus provided some Iraqi troops with gas masks to protect against exposure.

"They now have complete freedom to select locations for their labs and production sites and have a wide range of experts, both civilians and military, to aid them," a top Iraqi intelligence official stated.

Hakim al-Zamili, who heads the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee, said that Russia has delivered 1,000 chemical protection suits to Iraq to help against chemical attacks.

"[The Islamic State] is working very seriously to reach production of chemical weapons, particularly nerve gas. That would threaten not just Iraq but the whole world," al-Zamili stated.

The terror group has ramped up its threats to Western nations bombing the terror group in the Middle East, most recently claiming responsibility for gun attacks and suicide bombings in Paris that killed 129 people.

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told Parliament Thursday that "there could also be a risk of chemical or biological weapons."