by WorldTribune Staff, September 27, 2016
Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) may only have a “rudimentary” ability to weaponize mustard gas but the terror group is “dead set” on using the chemical agent in defending its Iraq stronghold at Mosul, the Pentagon said.
“We recognize this is real. They’re dead set on it. They would love to be able to use chemical weapons against us, against the Iraqis as they move forward,” Pentagon spokesman Cpt. Jeff Davis said on Sept. 27. “We are making every effort to make sure that we’re ready for it.”
Davis said the United States has provided more than 50,000 gas masks to Iraq, with about 40,000 going to Iraqi security forces.
Davis said ISIL’s “rudimentary” use of mustard gas typically entails the use of the chemical powder bound together with oil, which leaves behind a telltale oil trace.
“It’s not generally in a lethal concentration. It’s more of an irritant than anything else, but again, not something we view as militarily significant,” he said, according to Reuters, noting that the gas form of mustard agent used in the World War I was far more lethal.
“We fully recognize this is something that ISIL has done before. They’ve done it many times, at least a couple dozen that we know of where they have launched crude makeshift munitions that are filled with this mustard agent,” Davis said.
ISIL is thought to have seized hundreds of tons of sarin and mustard gases in June of 2014 when it took the al-Muthanna complex, located 60 miles north of Baghdad, which was a central base of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons program.
Analysts say the terror group may also have raided chemical stockpiles that belonged to former Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
On Sept. 20, ISIL jihadists fired a mustard gas-laden rocket that landed near an Iraqi base being used by U.S. military personnel. The rocket landed in an unpopulated area and no one was injured.
Meanwhile, an airstrike by the U.S.-led military coalition destroyed an ISIL chemical weapons factory on Sept. 23 near Qayyara, the second attack against a chemical arms facility in Iraq this month.