Iraq’s defense ministry has said it uncovered an al Qaeda cell that was working to produce poison gas to attack Iraqi forces. The gas was allegedly also for transport abroad to use in Europe and the US.
Five men built two facilities in Baghdad to produce sarin and mustard gas using instructions from another al Qaeda group, Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari told reporters Saturday.
The men were caught before they could manufacture the weapons, he added.
“They got some programs from al Qaeda outside Iraq, they were working … to produce mustard gas … and other gas,” al-Askari said. “There are some confessions about organized cells to smuggle them outside Iraq through a neighboring country in order to target Europe, America and different capitals.”
The arrests were possible because of cooperation between Iraqi and foreign intelligence services, he said.
The news comes after the United Nations said last month that rebel forces in Syria may have used sarin nerve gas in their fight to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
Iraq and Syria share a 600 kilometer (375 mile) border. Officials have warned that Sunni militants opposed to al-Assad and Iraq’s Shiite-led government are operating out of the country’s western desert region.
The late leader Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons to attack Kurdish villages in the north of the country.
dr/lw (AFP, Reuters)