After more than 900 airstrikes on Islamic State targets since August, Abu Malik’s death was the first in which the U.S. Central Command has reported the killing of a specific individual.
WASHINGTON — A U.S. bombing raid in Iraq has killed a chemical-weapons expert who once worked for Saddam Hussein and had joined the Islamic State group, the military said Friday.
Abu Malik was killed in an airstrike last Saturday near Mosul, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement. The statement did not give the circumstances of Malik’s death, say whether he was the target of the airstrike or explain why it took nearly a week to announce that he had been killed.
Malik’s death was the first time Central Command has reported the killing of a specific individual in more than 900 airstrikes on Islamic State targets since August.
The statement described Malik, who was also known as Salih Jasim Muhammed Falah al Sabawi, as a chemical-weapons engineer who had worked at Saddam’s Muthana chemical-weapons production facility in Anbar province, the country’s premier chemical and biological research facility until it was largely dismantled after the U.S.-led Gulf War of 1991. The Islamic State group captured the facility in July, but U.S. officials insisted then that whatever chemical stores remained there had been rendered useless by U.N. inspectors years ago.
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Still, the prospect that the Islamic State might be able to develop a chemical-weapons capability has worried officials.
The statement said Malik had joined al-Qaida in Iraq, the Islamic State’s predecessor organization, in 2005 — another reminder of the close links between the Islamic State group and al-Qaida in Iraq, which was the target of the buildup of U.S. troops in 2007 that U.S. officials had credited with pacifying the country.
It was unclear how crucial Malik was in the Islamic State’s organization. The U.S. statement said that his “past training and experience” provided “expertise to pursue a chemical-weapons capability” and that his death would “temporarily degrade and disrupt the terrorist network.”