Nobody will dispute the fact that ISIL militants are heavily armed. According to Conflict Armament Research, the arsenal of these radicals includes American automatic rifles along with Chinese anti-tank missiles and machine guns. A considerable percentage of these weapons were handed over to the Islamic State by the so-called “moderate Syrian opposition” which was armed by the United States, a nation well known for its devotion to sponsoring conflicts abroad.
The latest press-release published by the followers of the self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in its propaganda media outlet Dabiq shows that ISIL aims at the creation and consequent use of a wide range of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. In particular, the leader of the Islamic State claimed that it would be able to acquire nuclear weapons by purchasing them from Pakistan …. However, according to various experts, this scenario seems to be highly unlikely, since the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is kept under the strictest control by a reliable government in Islamabad.
But a recent article found in the The Independent, cited Australian intelligence agencies claiming that this terrorist organization has already captured a sufficient amount of radioactive material to create a nuclear “dirty bomb” which scatters radioactive material across a significant distance due to its powerful blast wave.
This fact was the driving concern of a meeting of the Australia Group in the Australian city of Perth which was held on June 5. This group is an association of 41 states that pursue non-proliferation of a wide range of chemical and biological weapons. As it was stated by Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at this meeting, intelligence agencies have started registering active attempts to recruit high-profile specialists that are capable of putting different WMDs into production. It should be of little surprise then that ISIL has already started using chlorine in its combat operations in Iraq.
A publication that was featured in the Italian Il Giornale newspaper claims that Islamists will try take a hold of chemical weapon stockpiles in Libya. It’s curious that in September 2014 the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which was monitoring the liquidation of Syria’s chemical stockpiles reported that Libya was to destroy up to 60% of its “raw materials” which could be used for the production of chemical weapons. According to the source of Il Giornale journalists, some 850 tons of substances could soon fall into the hands of ISIL militants.
In recent months numerous reports stressed the possible use of chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria by Islamists. It’s believed that the nerve agent that was used in those attacks was sarin, an extremely deadly substance. These reports were featured in numerous outlets, including the Washington Post. However, these cases are not the first attacks carried out by Islamic terrorists with chlorine-based gases. Back in 2006-2007 Al-Qaeda used trucks loaded with chlorine-based gas containers and TNT for terrorist attacks in the Iraqi province of al-Anbar.
The Islamic State’s aspirations toward acquiring WMDs were confirmed by the information obtained after the decoding of a hard disk that was seized from an ISIL militant. This disk contained direct instructions on the use of chemical, bacteriological and other weapons of mass destruction in upcoming operations of this terrorist organization, reported by Foreign Policy magazine.
It is now clear why Islamists demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui who is known as “Lady al-Qaeda” in return for numerous hostages. Aafia is a Pakistani citizen that was arrested in 2008 in Afghanistan carrying documents on chemical and biological weapons. The whereabouts of this former specialist of the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was unknown since 2003, from the moment “Lady al-Qaeda” returned to Pakistan. During her interrogation, she allegedly took advantage of careless guards, seized their weapons and began shooting. As a result she was sentenced to 86 years in prison and is now serving time in Texas. Another “symbolic” expert on WMD that plays an important role within ISIL is Saleh Jassim Mohammed Falah al-Saba also known as «Abou Malik», this “expert” in the field of chemical weapons was employed at the Al-Muthanna plant back in the days of Saddam Hussein, and then in 2005 he joined al-Qaeda.
The rapid growth of the operational capacity of ISIL along with its capability to recruit tens of thousands of new followers, some of whom possess enough training to produce chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons, can only stress the fact that the international community must effectively confront this threat in order to evade disaster.
Vladimir Platov, an expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”