ISIS and Chemical and Biological Weapons

This report to the UNSC from the Special Adviser and Head of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant contains an update about ISIS’s use of chemical and biological weapons. [Link fixed.]

Summary paragraph:

Investigations by the Team into the use of chemical and biological weapons by ISIL in Iraq have also moved forward rapidly. Based on testimonial, digital, documentary and forensic evidence, the Team has identified approximately 3,000 potential victims and witnesses of chemical weapons attacks carried out by ISIL. Analysis of previously unaccessed internal ISIL documentation on its chemical weapons programme shows the strategic planning undertaken in anticipation of the development of such weapons, including the use of Mosul University as a centre for research and development.

The investigation focuses on a March 2016 attack on Tazah Khurmatu and a June 2014 ISIS takeover of the University of Mosul and its “subsequent repurposing in support of a weapons development programme.”

Investigations in relation to attacks in Tazah Khurmatu have confirmed that on 8 March 2016, the district was struck by numerous rocket artillery projectiles containing a sulfur mustard agent, resulting in serious injuries and loss of life, the destruction of property and long-term repercussions for human health and the environment. Key pieces of documentary, testimonial and digital evidence analysed include laboratory results from samples obtained during clean-up operations of contaminated sites, forensic data associated with recovered weapon remnants, medical records and medical admissions data, autopsy reports in specific cases involving child victims, and analysis of the specific characteristics of the chemical payload.

The analysis of internal ISIL documents has supported the identification of key ISIL organizational structures as well as specific ISIL members having knowledge of, and a potential leadership role in, the attacks on Tazah Khurmatu, along with others performing more facilitative or operational roles. A significant number of additional witnesses have also been identified, including first responders and medical professionals, survivors of the attack and other affected families.


With respect to the takeover of Mosul University by ISIL, investigations have confirmed that specific laboratories and workshops within the biology and chemistry buildings of the University College of Sciences were utilized to facilitate the systematic research, development and production of mustard and other weaponized substances.

Internal ISIL documents obtained by the Team have confirmed the modification of university curricula and the employment by ISIL of small teams of qualified technical and scientific experts, notably in the fields of chemistry and physics, to pursue the weaponization of specific chemical and biological substances on the university campus. Chemical stores at the University, including a specific chemical depository in the College of Medicine, appear to have been accessed by ISIL subsequent to 10 June 2014. These initial findings will inform priority areas of forthcoming inquiry, including the analysis of identities of and relationships between those contributing to the overall programme, their specific research focus, and the degree of progress made in each case.

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