The Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria (IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL) has used chemical munitions in battle and may have access to chemical agents, Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan has warned.
“We have a number of instances where ISIL has used chemical munitions on the battlefield,” the CIA chief told CBS. “There are reports that ISIS has access to chemical precursors and munitions that they can use.”
According to the CIA, the terror group has the ability to manufacture small quantities of chlorine and mustard gas, and has shown willingness to use them in battle.
Brennan’s remarks were excerpted from a longer interview, scheduled to air on ‘60 Minutes’ this Sunday. The clarification comes just days after Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told US lawmakers about the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict.
“We assess that non-state actors in the region are also using chemicals as a means of warfare,” Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
Washington has made claims about chemical weapons use in Syria before, primarily accusing the government of President Bashar Assad. Damascus voluntarily handed over its chemical agents to the UN in 2013, following allegations that the Syrian Army used sarin gas on civilians in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
Rumors that IS may have access to chemical weapons have been circulating since last summer, when US-backed Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria reported mustard gas exposure during a battle with the terrorist group. US officials said that initial tests showed mustard gas presence on artillery shells, but that more testing was needed.
The CIA director told CBS that there was “potential” for IS to export chemical weapons to the West. “This is why it’s so important to cut off the various transportation routes and smuggling routes that they have used,” he added.
However, there are indications that the chemical weapons are actually flowing the other way. Turkish parliamentarian Eren Erdem, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), told RT last December that sarin gas and other chemical components were delivered to IS from the West, via Turkey.
“Western sources know very well who carried out the sarin gas attack in Syria,” Erdem told RT.