Ex-Libyan intel official: IS has Gaddafi-era chemical weapons

Stockpiles were ‘hidden in bases with which nobody was familiar, deep in the desert’

Lee Gancman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A former Libyan intelligence official said in a recent TV interview that the country’s chemical weapons stores have fallen into the hands of the Islamic State, which has taken them to Syria.

“It is no secret that these gasses exist in Libya. They have taken it. To be fair, IS is not the only one,” Ahmad Qadhaf al-Dam told Egyptian Dream2 TV on January 18.

The clip was translated into English and posted online by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Al-Dam, a cousin of deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, explained that despite assertions that Libya’s remaining chemical weapon stockpiles had been destroyed as part of a 2014 deal, unspecified quantities remained untouched, “hidden in bases with which nobody was familiar, deep in the desert.”

These statements appear to corroborate claims by Libyan sources to London-based Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Aawsat in February 2015, in which they said that extremist militias in Libya had taken over stashes of chemical weapons that once belonged to Gaddafi. At the time, however, the Islamic State was not mentioned explicitly as one of the groups who had gained control of the weapons.

Not only has IS gotten control of chemical weapons, al-Dam said, but “these weapons have been smuggled out of Libya, as everyone knows. I believe that the weapons that reached Syria originated in Libya.”

“The weapons that Bashar Assad was falsely accused of using came from Libya. This is well known.”

In August, activists and medical organizations documented an alleged chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town of Marea, some placing the blame on IS. Mamoun al-Khatib, a local journalist and activist, accused IS, which has recently attempted to seize the town numerous times, of firing the shells that he said emitted a “hideous stench.”

The Syrian American Medical Society Foundation (SAMS), which supports clinics in war-torn Syria, said a field hospital it operates in Marea has treated “more than 50 civilians exhibiting symptoms of chemical exposure.”

“Roughly 30 civilians developed skin blisters, with doctors identifying the agent to be mustard gas,” SAMS said in a statement, adding blood, clothing and hair samples had been collected from patients for further assessment.

Islamic State fighters in Libya, on Sunday, April 19, 2015. (Screen capture: Dailymotion)
Islamic State fighters in Libya, on Sunday, April 19, 2015. (Screen capture: Dailymotion)

Several weeks prior, reports emerged that IS jihadists in Iraq may have used mustard gas against Iraqi Kurdish fighters.

A US official said it was “plausible” the extremist group had used the deadly gas on Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Speaking about the lifting of sanctions on Libya, al-Dam said his country’s deal with the West was a maneuver in order to get the sanctions lifted: “We carried out a smart maneuver. We gave them a little information, in return for the lifting of all the sanctions on Libya, on the travel of Libyans, and on providing technology to Libya.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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