Tag Archives: Islamic State

ISIS Chemical-Weapons Expert Speaks

BAGHDADISIS was looking for scientists, said Ahmed, a 36-year-old follower of the so-called Islamic State who holds a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry and drug design. And Ahmed was looking for a chance to put his scientific knowledge to use.

This would not be theoretical research. ISIS and al Qaeda before it have been working since at least the 1990s to obtain biological and chemical weapons. But as with many gruesome enterprises, ISIS has been more methodical than its predecessors and competitors.

We do not yet know for sure the extent to which ISIS was successful and cannot confirm some of the claims made by Ahmed, but they fit with those made by an Iraqi geologist, Suleiman al-Afari, who told The Washington Post recently that he supervised a mustard gas production line for the Islamic State.

We also know that ISIS, through its global social media and internet recruiting, managed to create a corps of scientists interacting in person and on dark web forums to support the creation of a WMD arsenal, and Ahmed, whose name has been changed here, was part of the team. We interviewed him last month along with other ISIS prisoners being held in the Iraqi capital.

At the height of its power four years ago, ISIS worldwide recruiting effort offered top dollar to equip labs and support scientists to an extent much greater than anything Ahmed had been offered in Iraq, which basically was nothing.

I knew I could synthesize the biological and chemical weapons I researched on the web, he told us. I just needed the supplies and a well-equipped lab.

U.S. coalition and Iraqi forces have recently announced the discovery of an installation in Mosul where ISIS was indeed working on such weapons, and Ahmed says he was involved in that same labs operations.

We should be careful not to confuse the attempts by ISIS to develop and use chemical weapons with the infamous attacks launched by the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Of an estimated 300 such attacks in Syria in the course of the conflict there, a new study from the Global Public Policy Institute (PDF) estimates 98 percent are attributable to the regime, and only about 2 percent to ISIS.

But the groups aspirations in this regard, and some usage, is well documented. For instance, the group successfully deployed mustard and chlorine gas against the Kurdish Peshmerga. ISIS also set up a secret chemical weapons production facility in northern Iraq and has been quite innovative in using drones as dispersal devices for biological and chemical materials.

Surprisingly, research on the extent to which the group used or desired to expand on the use of chemical and biological weapons remains rare and largely under-researched, as noted in a report published last year by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

Ahmed, imprisoned inside the compounds of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Services, recounted in detail his rise from a promising but frustrated young scientist, to one who saw himself as a galvanized agent of social change at the time he joined ISIS, to his eventual capture.

Ahmed, like so many who joined and served ISIS, had come into contact with the group via social media while a Ph.D. student in India after a scientist friend, who was already working for them, encouraged him to join up.

While initially attracted to the idea of an Islamic State, he claimed it was not so much the ideology as what he thought would be the ability to show off his scientific and technical skills that actually drew him to ISIS: At first I was looking into their ideology because of their interest in science and technology. I was convinced I would join an authentic scientific community. Many scientists joined from many countries, he claimed in our interview. Lots of nuclear physicists and engineers, especially from Russia joined them.

Ahmed said he did not ever join the group physically, but supported them virtually and substantially. Searching the worldwide web and pursuing scientific journals, some of which he hacked into, allowed him to pass on knowledge about manufacturing chemical and biological weapons to those scientists already working in the Mosul lab.

While Ahmed started his work for ISIS by spreading this research and interacting on web forums on behalf of the group in 2015 and 2016, he fully intended to join the lab in Mosul upon his graduation and was confident of his ability to create the desired chemical and biological weapons. At the time, he believed ISIS was already an established state and would continue to expand.

I would upload and [my research] would get read by the high command of the Caliphate, he told us. They were interested in my posts and asked how we can acquire these chemicals. I also summarized books from a Russian website. There are loads of [scientific] journals I could access on the web and its not classified. I told them everything was in my summary, but also told them, you must have a real lab.

The operation in Mosul succeeded in producing mustard gas, which it dispersed in various operations using drones. In Baghdad, we viewed pictures of victims allegedly burned in ISIS mustard gas attacks.

Ahmed and his research colleagues working in the Mosul lab were not the only ISIS members striving for biological weapons. A chilling arrest occurred as recently as June 2018, in Germany, when Sief Allah H, a Tunisian man living in Cologne, was arrested after preparing the deadly biological poison ricin, made from castor beans. Security sources told ICSVEthe International Center for the Study of Violent Extremismthat the police knew of his activities and that he was following instructions provided over the internet by ISIS, and that police surveillance of the operation was terminated and arrests made after he succeeded, but before he was actually able to deploy the infamous compound.

Ahmed proudly boasted about his knowledge of computer science and the ability to modify, synthesize, and manufacture lethal weapons from raw substances, at times appearing highly ecstatic and fervent in his answers during the interview.

There are loads of scientific journals and its not classified. You just have to access them through a scientific institution, said Ahmed, explaining how he managed to access the latest in science by going to the dark web and using a Russian website that cracked these journals codes.

My friend [in ISIS] told me about WMD, that they were interested in making mustard gas, nitrogen, and sulfur. Nerve agents are easy to synthesize

I used Russian search engines that no one can penetrate and a Tor browser to hide and search, Ahmed said. For instance, the first item I put up for them was from the journal of Organic Phosphorus Chemistry aboutVX gas in Israel. Its a new generationnerve agent. The authors told how they made particle Isomers and structural modifications to enhance the activity of the gas in use, Ahmed said. I can tell a scientist about how to carry out the organic synthesis for this in micro quantities.

There was onearticle on pyrophoric [flammable] materials from a hazardous materials journal, Ahmed went on. These pyrophoric materials become flammable with water and moisture creating gas, fire and choking smoke to cause asphyxiation. The article was speaking about the flammability [of the materials] and what kind of gas was being generated, about the hazardous materials you could throw to troops, and on streets, on floating bridges, etc. All the necessary materials are available on the market… There was also a book from a Russian website about the experimental synthesis of all explosives. For me, I can synthesize any of these.

My friend [in ISIS] told me about WMD, that they were interested in making mustard gas, nitrogen, and sulfur. Nerve agents are easy to synthesize, Ahmed said, noting that he was disappointed that ISIS wasnt going further into the subjects he felt proficient in.

Its like writing a paper. I can search and modify the structure. I passed this to them. If I gain access to a lab, then I can do it. In our lab in India [where he was studying] I learned how to synthesize theoretically. We take the structure into a software and see how it works on this nerve, then we try it on animals. I synthesized for anti-diabetic and anti-epileptic activity and it worked, so I know I can do it for these substances as well.

Ahmed, who does not appear particularly connected to his own emotions, insisted that his work for ISIS was to help them as a state to be able to defend against and repel attackers. When reminded that ISIS had been at war with the Iraqis, Syrians and Western powers at that point, he kept insisting that the weapons he hoped to build for them were only for defense.

He also seemed oblivious to ISISs already deployed use of mustard gas against civilian populations. My idea was to use weapons as a deterrent, not to be used against humankind. He also seemed oblivious to the extraordinary brutality of ISIS during the time he was working for them and much more interested in and excited by the recognition he could achieve.

He hoped to branch out from poisons and plagues to explore new technologies for delivering them. I learned in the engineering world they [ISIS] were interested in anti-aircraft missiles and drones. They complain about coalition jet fighters destroying their troops on the ground. The admin on the website, there was a guy on the website who provided links from a British university to make drones from organic synthesis to make the whole body of the drone. It was some kind of solution, liquid phase synthesis, polymer science. We have already developed anti-aircraft missiles. We were going to use them.

It appears that Ahmed was not particularly religious prior to joining ISIS. He articulated only a very rudimentary grasp of the Islamic faith, which he said he rarely practiced. I was not very religious. I was not looking for an Islamic State. They [ISIS] were more interested in science and technology. They were thinking forward. My family is interested in science and technology. I find religion suspicious.

Although incongruous on its face, it has been common for many ISIS recruits to believe that somehow the Caliphate could fulfill their dreams, even if those had little to do with the way ISIS twisted the teachings of the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

Ahmed said he was deeply dissatisfied with widespread corruption and sectarian discrimination in the Iraqi job market following the 2003 toppling of the Saddam regime. As a Sunni, and despite being qualified, he felt he was kept out of jobs in areas of national defense and in any government-sector related to science.

Political things, the quality of the regime after 2003, it pushed me to interact and work against the regime, he said. I worked as a student in a lab in Iraq for four years. It was not possible to gain employment there. After, I worked in a pharmaceutical lab. It was totally corrupt. The whole facility was corrupt and it lacked in everything. I was completely frustrated. I considered it a primary school, he said.

Ahmed claimed he was compelled to look for jobs elsewhere, first in Qatar and then Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, but to no avail. His disconnected personality probably contributed to his failure in that regard, but all the same he was a gifted individual frustrated by his inability to pursue his chosen fielduntil ISIS came along.

Ahmed was arrested in 2018 by the Kurdish security forces during an undercover counterterrorism operation in Erbil, the capital of the Iraqs Kurdish regional government. He was then handed over to the U.S. Army in Erbil for further interrogation and later transferred to Iraqi authorities in Baghdad.

While Ahmed claimed he had stopped working for ISIS after he looked more closely into their violent Islamic ideology, he continued to see himself, as many jihadists are encouraged to do, as a sort of chivalric hero and, in his case, a chemical whiz kid.

During our interview, he expressed regret over his decision to join ISIS.

My advice to everyone in the world is not to believe [ISIS] propaganda and media. Real jihad is to support your country and families and provide them with the best knowledge. Dont believe ISIS or join any upcoming group.

At the same time, he seemed to still be angling for a job in his chosen field. Appearing to think we could bounce him out of prison, he offered to help the Americans now to fight ISIS. He had made a similar egotistic offer to the Peshmerga and also to others who had handled him following his capture.

Ahmeds story serves to demonstrate ISIS horrifying ambitions and tryst with chemical and biological weapons in Iraq and Syria, nearly actualized through their power to attract scientists like him from around the globe.

These experts are capable of researching methods for and carrying out the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction from raw substances and materials that ISIS also appears adept at procuring.

The notion that ISIS and its operatives can deploy weapons of mass destruction outside of Syria and Iraq still remains far-fetched, but even if Ahmed is overstating his abilities by a considerable margin, there is no question that the Caliphate had a substantial group of capable scientists, engineers and technicians.

ISIS capacity for innovation and the ability to replicate itself elsewherethat is, engage in transfer of tools and techniques learned abroad for use in Europe, Asia or the Americasmust be taken seriously.

The Islamic State may have lost every last acre of the Caliphate in Iraq and Syria, but it lives on in the the minds of many who would inflict terrible attacks on its enemies, and may yet acquire the means to do so.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/isis-chemical-weapons-expert-speaks-in-exclusive-interview

Why deadly Kabul bombing is crisis for all of Afghanistan | Emma Graham-Harrison

Increase in attacks on Kabul after many years of citys relative security an enormous threat towards the government, economy and civil society

For a long time the Afghan capital was a tropical of relative peace of mind in a rustic battered with a rising tide of violence. The devastating bombing this Wednesday morning was confirmation it is now probably the most harmful places in Afghanistan, and it is another heavy blow to some weak and fractured government.

The increasing tempo of attacks in Kabul pose an outsize threat towards the government, the delicate economy, towards the foreign support that keeps Afghanistan running, to education, media and civil society, that cluster within the capital.

The attacks will also be disproportionately deadly to civilians, since most military and government targets within the city are heavily protected.

If you’re ready to tolerate the slaughter of innocents [attacks in Kabul] are an effective way to get to folks in power, stated Kate Clark, from the Afghanistan Analysts Network. Afghanistan is really a place that requires a little bit of stability to obtain itself together, and crises such as this really undermine the federal government and peoples confidence the government can safeguard them.

Such crises also sow confusion within the western countries which offer funds and troops to support the federal government from the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani.

3 years after David Cameron declared mission accomplished and Obama stated the American war in Afghanistan was over, carnage in the middle of Kabul causes it to be obvious that for Afghans there’s been no pause within the violence.

There’s little appetite in almost any western country for escalating world war 2 again, even when generals on the floor are calling for more troops, with no recent experience provides evidence that foreign troops may bring real or lasting security.

But couple of officials with any understanding in history could advise their leaders to depart the federal government to the fate either, however weak and corrupt.

Before foreign forces switched their backs on Afghanistan, following the departure of Russian troops in 1989 motivated US disengagement, the nation slid in to the violent chaos and warlord feuding that bred the Taliban.

Inside a world which has since seen an upswing of Islamic State (Isis), where the web accelerates the distribution of both ideology and violence, it might appear reckless to test out letting Afghanistan disintegrate again.

Before the most recent atrocity, the United Nations had cautioned this year was showing deadlier for civilians in Kabul than elsewhere in the united states. Casualties within the capital were outpacing the restive eastern and southern provinces Helmand, Kandahar or Nangahar which were the cradle from the insurgency coupled with been the bloody focus from the war recently.

Geographically, Kabul province had the greatest quantity of civilian casualties because of suicide and sophisticated attacks in Kabul city, the United nations mission in Afghanistan stated inside a report on protection of civilians in the finish of April.

It’s not yet obvious when the rising toll within the capital happens because insurgents are becoming better at penetrating the town, since they’re targeting civilians where they once targeted at better protected targets, or just since the citys defenders are failing more frequently.

Regardless of the cause, the deaths are particularly disturbing for any country as impoverished and vulnerable as Afghanistan, that has suffered 4 decades of violence between factions which have frequently mutated but rarely set arms, and which now appears around the edge of-out war once more.

For a long time following the ousting from the Taliban, because the insurgency collected momentum elsewhere, Kabul appeared to appear in a family member bubble, paid by Afghan and western intelligence services along with a serviceable, if much-mocked, police ring of steel.

Officials were criticised for putting the security of the families surface of national security priorities, but protecting Kabul was important for the entire country. Civil society expanded, new universities and schools sprang up, and also the Afghan capital grew to become easily probably the most vibrant media hub inside a region unfamiliar for press freedom. The explosive device this Wednesday morning, hidden in the sewage tanker, hit at many of these aspects.

The very first reports centered on embassies, however the terrifyingly vast crater was on the busy intersection and merely a couple of hundred metres from TV studios, a leading school, smart hotel and string of small shops.

Two government officials, a person for that BBC, along with a specialist for that television funnel Tolo, happen to be named one of the dead.

[The] attack was on Kabuls employees, the telecoms, banks, private companies, embassies. All scheming to make Afghanistan a much better place, authored Wazhma Frogh, a leading person in parliament.

Madam Frogh (@FroghWazhma)

Today’s attack was on Kabul’s employees, the telecoms, banks, private companies, embassies. All scheming to make Afg a much better place

May 31, 2017

No group has yet claimed responsibility for that attack, and also the target am unusual for Afghanistan that some analysts think the explosives, that have been hidden in the tanker accustomed to drain sewage reservoirs, might have detonated prematurely.

There’s no location in Kabul where that volume of explosives might have been detonated without killing and maiming large figures of civilians. No matter maker and motive, the attack represents a increased threat for that citys countless residents.

Isis, with a growing operation in Afghanistan and little compunction about slaughtering civilians, are apparent suspects. The attack would represent a worrying escalation within their capacities.

The Taliban rapidly denied any participation, but they’re a nationalist group attempting to build support for eventual government and don’t possess a reliable history with regards to claiming responsibility for violence. Previously they’ve denied responsibility for attacks that, such as this one have caused prevalent public revulsion even if there is credible evidence linking the audience towards the occasions.

Find out more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/01/kabul-bombing-crisis-afghanistan-civilian-society-government-

Facebook struggles with ‘mission impossible’ to stop online extremism

Social networking giant faces critique for doing not enough to avoid extremist content as terrorists find methods for bypassing its rules

Facebook moderators identified greater than 1,300 posts on the website as credible terrorist threats in one month and face a jason bourne to manage the quantity of content proliferated by extremists, based on internal documents and testimony presented to the Protector.

A document circulated towards the teams given the job of policing the website states there have been 1,340 credible terrorist threat escalations last August.

Which means that potentially worrying extremist content or propaganda was passed to senior Facebook managers who then deleted or disabled 311 posts and accounts.

Eight of the very most serious reports were evaluated through the services internal counter-terrorism team, the document adds. Additionally, it states the data gleaned from moderators was really a massive assistance on identifying new terrorist organisations/leaders.

The figures are the initial understanding of the amount of terrorist-related reports worked with by Facebook, which rarely reveals information regarding the size from the problems it handles every single day.

Requested concerning the documents, Facebook contested the figures but didn’t elaborate. Additionally, it declined to provide figures for other several weeks.

Other files show Facebook has designated the western-backed Free Syrian Army, that is fighting to depose obama, Bashar al-Assad, like a terrorist group.

Tackling terrorist-related content is among Facebooks priority areas. The Protector continues to be told it is trying to help control the issue by utilizing software to intercept extremist content before it will get on the website.

This requires monitoring activity from known bad accounts and fanning to others associated with them. Over fifty percent the terrorist-related content removed by Facebook has become identified in this manner.

A Facebook document on counter-terrorism. Photograph: Guardian

But one source familiar with Facebooks counter-terrorism policies said extremist groups such as Islamic State could easily circumvent moderators to distribute content across the site.

The source said the volume of material often meant moderators had less than 10 seconds to make a decision that may require intimate understanding of the terrorist organisation and it is leaders. Its a jason bourne, the origin stated.

The figures for last August are incorporated within the lots of documents seen through the Protector that comprise the Facebook Files.

They put down in unparalleled detail how a social networking company has attempted to balance its commitment to free speech with growing demands for it to more aggressively challenge abuse and violence on the platform.

Find out more: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/may/24/facebook-struggles-with-mission-impossible-to-stop-online-extremism