A New Chemical Arsenal for the Mujahideen?

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 2 Issue: 17

According to a report in the pan-Arab daily al-Sharq al-Awsat a group called the Jaysh al-Ta’ifa al-Mansura (Army of the Victorious Community), which claims affiliation to al-Qaeda, issued a statement that it had launched an attack on September 13 against some targets in Baghdad with “long range chemical weapons.” The targets were the Ministry of the Interior, the Foreign Ministry, the Green Zone and a Security College. [www.aawsat.com]

The group had issued the threat of an “unconventional” attack two days earlier. The text of the threat, signed by one “Abu Usama of the Information Bureau” posted up on the al-Hesba and al-Farouq forums, struck a defiant tone against the “atheist servant of the Americans Ibrahim Ja’afari and his apostate minister of defense Sa’doun al-Dulaymi,” and declared that the “military bureau of the Jaysh al-Ta’ifa al-Mansura” had decided to employ “unconventional chemical weapons which the mujahideen had developed” in the event that the Iraqi and occupation forces did not call off the attack on Tall Afar, “the city of jihad,” within 24 hours. [www.al-farouq.com]

That same day, a speech from Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi was posted on the al-Hesbah Internet forum, containing accusations that the coalition forces had used “the most destructive and lethal weapons and the most deadly and hurtful poison gas” during the campaign at Tall Afar. The message also included some morale boosting comments that the coalition forces were desperate in seeking a way out of Iraq, now that they were “witnessing their worst days.” [www.alhesbah.org]

Confirmation has yet to be made as to whether the threat by the Jaysh al-Ta’ifa al-Mansura was carried out. On September 15 a similar unauthenticated claim about a chemical attack was made by another group, The Islamic Army in Iraq, against the American military base of Mada’in, deploying four rockets with chemical warheads. The Iraqi authorities recorded 5 mortar attacks, including two in the Green Zone, two near the traffic police directorate and a fifth near one of the city’s hospitals. The Jaysh al-Ta’ifa al-Mansura has in the past claimed several attacks against US and Iraqi forces and against Shiites, and most recently claimed the head of the Iraqi deputy Minister of the Interior. But their claimed affiliation to al-Qaeda was cast in doubt by a posting by al-Qaeda on September 13 denying any connection with the chemical bombing in Baghdad.

The claim to have responded in kind (although U.S. army sources deny any chemical weapons were used at Tall Afar) may simply be a propaganda morale boosting exercise, but the prospect of a jihadi group (as opposed to remnants of the Iraqi army) manufacturing and delivering a chemical weapon is not in itself improbable. The internet forums bristle with recipes for manufacturing explosives. On August 11 an entry in the Risalat al-Umma forum [www.alommh.net] contained 26 web pages of detailed instructions for chemical and plastic explosives. A fuller treatment is available in the anonymous work al-Mubtakar al-Farid (The Unique Innovation), which first appeared on the forums last December, and forms part of the exhaustive Encyclopedia of Jihad, that also contains treatises on poison gases and biological weapons. The al-Mubtakar al-Farid work provides detailed, illustrated, step-by-step instructions for obtaining, assembling and deploying a chemical weapon, including instructions for constructing a suitable detonator mechanism. The treatise styles itself as intended “to strike terror in the enemy and confront the armies of Unbelief” and “a major cause for the victory of the Believers.”