Isis 'aggressively pursuing development of chemical weapons', say Iraqi and US officials

The French prime minister previously warned Isis could arm itself with biological and chemical weapons

Isis is “aggressively pursuing the development of chemical weapons”, creating a team dedicated to research and experiments, according to Iraqi and US intelligence officials.

Iraqi officials have raised concerns that a large area controlled by extremists, since the group overran parts of Iraq and Syria last year, has left authorities largely in the dark about Isis activities.

A senior Iraqi intelligence officer, with first-hand knowledge of Isis' chemical weapons programme, told The Associated Press anonymously: "They now have complete freedom to select locations for their labs and production sites and have a wide range of experts, both civilians and military, to aid them."

It also believed the group are working in conjunction with scientists in Iraq and Syria to create more sophisticated weapons.

US intelligence officials, however, told AP they do not believe Isis is capable of creating more developed weapons such as nerve gas, most suited for terrorist attacks on civilian targets.

So far the group are only known to have used mustard gas during violence in Iraq and Syria, which is usually not lethal, with most victims recovering from their symptoms in several weeks, according to Live Science.

A European official with knowledge of the militant group added that, at present, even Isis’s production of mustard gas was in small quantities and of low quality.

Despite this, Iraq’s military distributed gas masks to troops deployed west and north of Baghdad over the Summer, amidst fears Isis may expand their weapons use, a general told AP.

Hakim al-Zamili, the head of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defence committee said: "Daesh [Isis] is working very seriously to reach production of chemical weapons, particularly nerve gas. That would threaten not just Iraq but the whole world."

On Thursday, the French prime minister warned Isis could arm itself with biological and chemical weapons in future terror attacks on Europe.

Manuel Valls said France faced a serious threat from associates linked to the gunmen and bombers who launched attacks across Paris last Friday, killing 130.

"We must not rule anything out," he said. "I say it with all the precautions needed. But we know and bear in mind that there is also a risk of chemical or bacteriological weapons.

The Islamic militant group Isis have claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings and shootings in Paris saying they were the “beginning of the storm”.

The group’s propaganda arm released statements in Arabic and French claiming the “blessed battle” was an act of revenge for France’s involvement in the US-led coalition bombing its militants in Iraq and Syria.

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