There is a real and growing and chilling concern among top intelligence officials that ISIS is steadily developing the ability to launch massive, genocidal attacks against its enemies using chemical weapons. Whether ISIS is planning such attacks inside the U.S., in Europe or only within the Middle East, is not yet clear.
Ghastly attacks of precisely this sort are the premise of my two most recent novels, The Third Target and The First Hostage. When I began researching and writing the series, however, there was no actual evidence that ISIS possessed — or had access to — weapons of mass destruction. But the situation is changing for the worse.
Last month, CIA director John Brennan admitted on “60 Minutes” that he now fears chemical attacks by ISIS.
Also last month, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, told a security conference in Munich that ISIS has chemical weapons and wants to use them against the United States. “It is pretty clear that they [ISIS] have used this [chemical weapons] numerous times,” Clapper said. “It is very clear aspirationally they would like to do more and it is a concern to us in the United States because the indications are that they would like to use chemical weapons against us.”
Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress that ISIS “will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe, and attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016.”
Now, just this week, we’ve learned that ISIS has just launched two attacks in the city of Kirkuk using chemical weapons. At least 600 Iraqis have been injured by the attacks. One little girl is dead. Hundreds of other Iraqis have fled for their lives. Iraq’s Prime Minister is vowing revenge for the attacks.
Recently, U.S. special forces captured ISIS’s chemical weapons chief. “Sleiman Daoud al-Afari was snatched close to a month ago in the town of Badoosh, north-west of the Isis stronghold of Mosul,” reported the UK Guardian. “A senior Iraqi official said he was an industrial engineer in former dictator Saddam Hussein’s military and had been a member of Isis throughout all its earlier incarnations.” This week, U.S. forces handed over the terrorist to the Iraqi government.
U.S., Iraqi and Kurdish forces have been attacking ISIS chemical weapons production facilities. It is likely that knowledge of these facilities came from intel provided by al-Afari.
But the risk is increasingly high that ISIS is planning “enormous and spectacular attacks” in Europe, the U.S., in Israel or in a Sunni Arab country, as a top British security official recently warned.
Excerpts from the Los Angeles Times story on this week’s chemical weapons attack in Iraq:
- The Islamic State group has launched two chemical attacks near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing a 3-year-old girl, injuring some 600 people and causing hundreds more to flee, Iraqi officials said Saturday.
- Security and hospital officials say the latest attack took place early Saturday in the small town of Taza, which was also struck by a barrage of rockets carrying chemicals three days earlier.
- “There is fear and panic among the women and children,” said Adel Hussein, a local official in Taza. “They’re calling for the central government to save them.” Hussein said a German and an American forensics team arrived in the area to test for the presence of chemical agents.
- The wounded are suffering from infected burns, suffocation and dehydration, said Helmi Hamdi, a nurse at the Taza hospital. He said eight people were transferred to Baghdad for treatment.
- U.S. and Iraqi officials said U.S. special forces captured the head of the ISIS unit trying to develop chemical weapons in a raid last month in northern Iraq.
- The U.S.-led coalition said the chemicals ISIS has so far used include chlorine and a low-grade sulfur mustard which is not very potent….
- The coalition began targeting ISIS’ chemical weapons infrastructure with airstrikes and special operations raids two months ago, Iraqi intelligence officials and a Western security official in Baghdad told the AP.
- Airstrikes are targeting laboratories and equipment, and further special forces raids targeting chemical weapons experts are planned, the officials said….
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