ISIS has loaded mustard gas into shells, says militant

A screengrab from an ISIS video posted on social media.
A screengrab from an ISIS video posted on social media.

WASHINGTON • A chemical weapons expert for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has told US military interrogators that the group has weaponised sulphur mustard and loaded it into artillery shells.

The United States has long suspected ISIS of using sulphur mustard, an internationally banned substance that burns a victim's skin, breathing passages and eyes.

Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, captured a month ago by US special forces, was described by three officials as a "significant operative" in the ISIS terrorist network's increasingly active chemical weapons programme.

He provided detailed information that resulted in two allied air strikes in the last week against ISIS' illicit weapon sites, US Defence Department officials said on Wednesday.

Under interrogation, al-Afari told his captors how the group had weaponised sulphur mustard, the officials said.

Based on information from him, the US-led air campaign conducted one strike against a weapons production plant in Mosul, Iraq, and another against a "tactical unit" near Mosul that was believed to be related to the programme, the officials added.

Pentagon officials refused to publicly acknowledge the capture and interrogation of al-Afari.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights yesterday said an ISIS military commander believed to have been killed in a US air strike was badly wounded but still alive.

US officials said on Tuesday that Abu Omar al-Shishani, also known as Omar the Chechen and described by the Pentagon as the group's "minister of war", was targeted near the town of al-Shadadi in Syria.

Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said he had been badly wounded but not killed and had been moved to Raqqa for treatment.

NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'ISIS has loaded mustard gas into shells, says militant'. Print Edition | Subscribe