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ISIS Detainee's Information Led to 2 U.S. Airstrikes, Officials Say
A top specialist in chemical weapons for the Islamic State who is in American custody in northern Iraq has given military interrogators detailed information that resulted in two allied airstrikes in the last week against the group's illicit weapons sites, Defense Department officials said Wednesday.
The prisoner, an Iraqi identified by officials as Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, was captured a month ago by commandos with an elite American Special Operations force. He was described by three officials as a "significant operative" in the Islamic State's chemical weapons program. Another official said he once worked for Saddam Hussein's Military Industrialization Authority.
The Islamic State's use of chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria has been known, but Mr. Afari's capture has provided the United States with the opportunity to learn detailed information about the group's secretive program, including where chemical agents were being stored and produced.
Under interrogation, Mr. Afari told his captors how the group had weaponized sulfur mustard and loaded it into artillery shells, the officials said. Based on information from Mr. Afari, the United States-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 program, the officials said.
Pentagon officials refused to publicly acknowledge the capture and interrogation of Mr. Afari, saying that they did not want to reveal details of what the American Special Operations team is doing in Iraq. But, "We know they have used chemical weapons in both Iraq and Syria," a Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis, said on Wednesday, referring to the Islamic State. "This is a group that does not observe international norms."
Captain Davis said "in large doses" the sulfur mustard agent "can certainly kill," citing a case last year of a Syrian baby who died after a chemical attack unleashed by the Islamic State on her home in northern Syria.
[Source: By Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, The New York Times, Washington, 09Mar16]
War in Afghanistan & Iraq
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