Last summer, an artillery shell hit the home of a family of four in the Syrian city of Marea. It had smashed a hole in their roof’s reinforced concrete, but left Abu Anas Ishara, his wife Nada, and their two children unharmed—until the next day. Their eyes burned, and blisters and burns appeared on their skin. Their youngest, a daughter just days old, died two weeks later.
The shell, fired by Islamic State fighters to the east, was packed with sulfur mustard, a chemical-warfare agent that has been internationally banned for over two decades. The Sunni militant group has been suspected of using weaponized agents multiple times in Iraq and Syria since at least last spring, according to The New York Times. Traces of dangerously toxic agents have been detected in soil samples or on victims’ clothing from attack sites.
The capacity of the terrorist group’s chemical-weapons program is not publicly known. But U.S. special forces in Iraq have captured a top chemical-weapons engineer for ISIS, American officials said Wednesday, according to several news outlets. Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, an expert in chemical and biological weapons who previously worked for Saddam Hussein’s regime, was detained during a raid last month in Badoosh. He has been interrogated by the U.S. military and reportedly provided valuable information about the group’s chemical weapons and operations.