Exclusive – Sound and Picture
Al-Qaeda tried to work on the possession of chemical weapons and toxic gases in order to upset the balance of the forces on the ground since the inception in Iraq. Their leader, former known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, made the work on chemical weapons to his personal matter and accorded great attention to it. He gave this mission to the Lebanese engineer Abu Muhammad and to the Iraqi engineer Ammar al-Ani, who was working in the Iraqi regime laboratories during the rule of former president Saddam Hussein. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi also built primitive laboratories in Tarmiya farms and Alborkibh, but the experiments in these laboratories have not achieved the desired results due to lack of the availability of raw materials and laboratories. Also the application of chlorine gas during terrorist operations in Duluiya, Abu Ghraib and Saqlawiyah failed since the chlorine gas only receded in confined spaces due to the heavy weight of the gas and didn’t spread out to a wider range like Al-Qaeda was hoping for.
After the death of the engineers, the engineer Abu Ghazwan al-Hayali took over the chemical weapons development and was in charge of the training of engineers and recruiting specialists. Since he was one of the officers of the defense minister Ali Hassan al-Majid during Saddam’s regime, he was murdered during a raid carried out by US forces in the factories of development in the town of Tarmiya in 2008. The US forces also confiscated all the substances that were found and destroyed the factories completely.
After the death of “Al-Hayali” Al-Qaida’s chemical weapon operations development has been frozen until the middle of 2014, when the organization of the Islamic State “ISIS” dominated the Salahuddin province and entered the institution of Al-Muthanna, where they seized some equipment and materials that were needed to produce chemical weapons.
In the wake of controlling a large geographical area in Iraq ISIS reactivated the chemical experiments and toxic gases and handed it over to Abu Saad Al-Masri, a physicist and engineer who holds a master’s degree in nuclear science. Al-Masri didn’t hold this position for too long, since he was targeted by a raid of the coalition aviation south of Tel Afar which led to his death. Therefore ISIS handed over his tasks to his assistant Abu Malek Al-Iraqi, also known as Mahmoud Sabawi, one of the former officers who joined Al-Qaeda in 2005.
Sabawi assembled a compilation of the material owned by ISIS and brought new material from Syria after ISIS took control of several important sits in Deir El-Zor and Raqqa. He also conducted several successful experiments in Syria and Iraq, which was the beginning of the production and the use of chemical weapons in battles for ISIS. After Sabawi was killed in a raid by the coalition aviation in the south of Mosul in January 2015, the tasks were handed over to Salman Dawood al-Afri, who was arrested in a special-forces commando operation in the Badush area north of Mosul in the end of February 2015.
Al-Afri admitted that ISIS was possessing quantities of raw chemicals which they got from the Altabqa airport and the stations of Alkam and Alkabr in Deir El-zor. These weapons were used in Tel Seine near the Mosul dam and in Kasak and Zammar in Iraq. Chlorine gas was also used in the areas of Tuzkhormato and in battles against the Free Syrian Army in Kobani and Mara’a in Syria.
Al-Afri also admitted, that the chemistry team of ISIS tried to extract some of the toxic waste, which was buried by the UN inspection team in Tikrit near the presidential palaces of the Alalam village, by drilling after bombing the area, but the strong burial and the presence of many concrete buildings prevented ISIS from extracting it.
The chemical weapon file was not closed with the arrest of Al-Afri, as the file was recently handed over to Abu Shaima, who was one of Al-Afri’s assistants. Information indicates that Abu Shaima has Iraqi nationality and was a Doctor in the University of Baghdad during the reign of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Abu Shaima decided to move all the chemical laboratories and the manufacturing of toxic gases into densely populated residential neighborhoods to protect it against any attack or air landing to not repeat the experiments that led to the killing or arresting of his predecessors.
The reporter of “Sound and Picture” in Mosul is quoting eyewitnesses that felt the smell of chlorine and other unpleasant smells in the agricultural neighborhood in Mosul as well as the emerge of several skin diseases and respiratory after ISIS took over several houses, turned them into headquarters and brought closed cars into the neighborhood. The people also noticed the presence of dead dogs and rabbits in garbage containers, followed by the evacuation of these headquarters, ISIS closing them and preventing people from approaching them.
The reporter of “Sound and Picture” obtained information from private sources within ISIS that they used rabbits and dogs in experiments to find out the proportion of the toxic materials, that were needed to kill a dog, to use it as a signal for evacuation. The source also pointed out that ISIS got special devices that determine the amount of radiation due to the fear of the lives of their members.
These sightings were not made in the agricultural neighborhood only, but also in the neighborhoods of Almohandseen and Alba’ath, which feature luxury houses that are large and detached. Most of the inhabitants were adherents of the Christian religion and have been displaced to dominate the neighborhood and turn some of the houses into headquarters and distribute the other houses to the families of the members.
In the neighborhood of Almohandseen nearly seven closed cars, “pick-ups” and a large truck have been monitored driving to a house at night. Barking dogs could be heard in the house, which was characterized by the absence of any ISIS logo on it or even guards. Also in the Alba’ath neighborhood three fully covered medium trucks were seen and odors started to emit from the house after ISIS members have entered it for one week.
It did not stop with conducting experiments on rabbits and the use of dogs, as the reporter of “Sound and Picture” obtained information indicating there is a secret prison in the Al-Andalus neighborhood in which chemical experiments are conducted on prisoners by exposing them to toxic gases or chemicals on a small scale. In the neighborhood of the prison there also emerged odors and several cases of rashes, as well as the shortness of breath of children, prompting some residents to leave for health reasons or of fear of the headquarters being targeted by the coalition forces.
Here it must be noted that ISIS owns several factories for the processing of chemical weapons in Mosul of which three, the Mosul University Laboratory, the Tel Afar Laboratory and the Qayyarah laboratory, have been destroyed in March 2016. Many laboratories were destroyed by air strikes at other times, expect for those that have not been revealed yet in the rest of the zones controlled by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
In this context, statistics indicate that the number of confirmed cases of injuries caused by ISIS members using chemicals on the outskirts of Mosul and the northern Kurdish villages reached 67 cases, as well as eight cases in the Tuzkhormato area, in addition to 148 cases in different parts of Iraq and 83 cases in the areas of Syria.
All of this information and indicators show that the “dream” of Zarqawi began to take shape more in the hands of Al-Baghdadi, who is working to impose himself as a threat in the Middle East, which is raising fears of ISIS owning chemical weapons and threatens the local “enemies” as well as foreign countries.