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US strike kills Islamic State weapons expert

Washington: A US-led coalition air strike on Islamic State has killed a chemical weapons specialist who gained expertise under Saddam Hussein's regime.

 US strike kills Islamic State weapons expert

A formation of U.S. Navy F-18E Super Hornets leaves after receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker in this file photo. AP

US military officials say the air raid, carried out last Saturday near Mosul in Iraq, took out Abu Malik, whose training "provided the terrorist group with expertise to pursue a chemical weapons capability", the military said in a statement.

Malik had worked at a chemical weapons production plant under Saddam's regime and later forged an affiliation with al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2005, before joining IS, according to Central Command.

"His death is expected to temporarily degrade and disrupt the terrorist network and diminish ISIL's [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] ability to potentially produce and use chemical weapons against innocent people," it said.

There has been no sign IS possesses a major chemical weapons arsenal. But there have been allegations the jihadists have employed chlorine gas, which is classified as a "choking agent", though not as lethal as nerve agents.

The US-led coalition has carried out more than 2000 air raids against IS in Syria and Iraq since August 8, including some bombing runs that targeted senior militants.

Separately, outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in an interview on Friday the United States might eventually need to send non-combat ground troops to Iraq to help turn back IS forces.

Mr Hagel, who announced his resignation under pressure in November, told CNN all options must be considered in Iraq, including sending troops for non-combat roles such as gathering intelligence and locating IS targets.

AFP

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Updated Date: Jan 31, 2015 10:33:31 IST