A chemical weapons expert of the Islamic State (IS/ISIL) was killed in a coalition airstrike last week near Mosul, Iraq, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement on Friday.
The air raid took out Abu Malik, whose training “provided the terrorist group with the expertise to pursue a chemical weapons capability,” the military said in a statement.
The statement said Abu Malik had been a chemical weapons engineer during the rule of Saddam Hussein and then joined al-Qaeda Iraq in 2005.
“His death is expected to temporarily degrade and disrupt the terrorist network and diminish ISIL’s ability to potentially produce and use chemical weapons against innocent people,” the statement said.
U.S. officials had not publicly referred to Malik previously as a key figure.
There has been no sign that the IS group possesses a major chemical weapons arsenal. But there have been allegations the jihadists have employed chlorine gas, which is classified as a “choking agent,” though not as lethal as nerve agents.
Abu Malik, also known as Salih Jasim Mohammed Falah al-Sabawi, had been “involved in operations to produce chemical weapons in 2005, and planned attacks in Mosul with AQI (Al-Qaeda in Iraq),” said a defense official.
“Based on his training and experience, he was judged to be capable of creating harmful and deadly chemical agents,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“We know ISIL is attempting to pursue a chemical weapons capability, but we have no definitive confirmation that ISIL currently possess chemical weapons,” the official said.
The U.S.-led coalition has carried out more than 2,000 air raids against the radical group in Syria and Iraq since August 8, including some bombing runs that targeted senior militants.
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