An ISIS top weapons expert has been killed by a coalition airstrike this week, reports out of Iraq say. A U.S.-led strike took out chemical weapons expert and longtime jihadist Abu Malik, aka Salih Jasim Muhammed Falah al-Sabawi. Malik’s death represents a significant setback to ISIS programs looking to progress and utilize unconventional weapons.
Writes Fox News on Jan. 30, in conjunction with The Associated Press: “Abu Malik, who the U.S. Central Command said worked at Saddam Hussein’s Muthana chemical weapon production facility before affiliating with Al Qaeda Iraq in 2005, was an engineer for the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, or ISIL. He was killed on Jan. 24 in the vicinity of Mosul.”
Malik was a henchman of Saddam Hussein, and created toxic chemicals used by the former president of Iraq against Kurds and Iranians. Malik also had worked at the Al Muthanna chemical weapons complex, where the deadly nerve gas sarin was produced. The Pentagon says Malik has been working with ISIS since the summer of 2014.
“We know ISIL is attempting to pursue a chemical weapons capability, but we have no definitive confirmation that ISIL currently possess chemical weapons,” an unnamed military official said, according to the Washington Times.
The U.S. Central Command, made up of 57 coalition nations tasked with, among other things, overseeing operations in the Middle East, said in a statement:
“Malik was an ISIL chemical weapons engineer who worked at Saddam Hussein’s Muthana chemical weapon production facility before affiliating with al Qaeda Iraq in 2005. He later joined ISIL and his past training and experience provided the terrorist group with expertise to pursue a chemical weapons capability. His death is expected to temporarily degrade and disrupt the terrorist network and diminish ISIL’s ability to potentially produce and use chemical weapons against innocent people.”
U.S. reports stated that “confidence was high” that Malik had been killed. Officials are in the process of confirming his death. “It takes time, to be sure, you know,” the military official said. “During the strike, we got pretty good confidence, but they wanted to be completely sure and that takes a little time.”
“He was gathering a lot of equipment—we’re not really sure for what—before we killed him,” a different U.S. intelligence official said, according to the Daily Beast. “But it’s concerning that someone who was fairly seriously high up in the [chemical weapons] infrastructure linked up with [ISIS]. This wasn’t some enlisted guy.”
Adds the Daily Beast: “The announcement of al-Sabawi’s death was the first time that CENTCOM has named one of the 6,000 Islamic State fighters it has killed since U.S. and coalition air strikes began August 8 and suggested that U.S. officials believed they had fended off ISIS’s best resource to develop chemical weapons.”