Al Qaeda’s Chlorine War continues in Ramadi

Ramadi police seize a truck rigged with explosives and chlorine cannisters

The truck cargo area reveals containers filled with chlorine and explosives. Picture courtesy of MNF-West PAO. Click to view.

Al Qaeda in Iraq is pressing forward with its dirty war in Anbar province. On March 23, police in Ramadi’s Jazeera district seize a truck filled with “five 1000-gallon barrels filled with chlorine and more than two tons of explosives,” according to Multinational Forces West. The truck was parked outside the Jazeera police station. “The police approached the truck for further investigation and detained the driver when they discovered the truck was rigged with explosives and the driver was attempting to detonate the vehicle.” The driver was captured and an Explosives Ordnance Demolition team destroyed the truck.

The driver will be interrogated in an attempt to break the al Qaeda network of chlorine bombers.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has escalated its suicide campaign to include attacks with chlorine gas, and Anbar province has been the focus of these attacks. This is the sixth chlorine suicide attack in the province since this mode of attack begun this winter.

On January 28, 16 were killed in the first such attack in Ramadi. On February 19, al Qaeda struck again in Ramadi, killing two members of the Iraqi security force and wounding 16. On March 17, al Qaeda hit with a three pronged attack in Ramadi, Fallujah and Amiriya. Two were killed and over 360 were poisoned in the aftermath of the attacks.

Al Qaeda also conducted two deadly chlorine attacks outside of Anbar province. On February 20, five were killed and 140 sickened after a chlorine attack in Baghdad. On February 21, a chlorine attack in Taji killed 9 and made 150 sick.

The U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces have been hunting for clues behind the chlorine attacks and are seeking to dismantle the networks behind them.

Two chlorine bomb factories were discovered in Karma and Fallujah by Coalition forces on February 21. Karma has increasingly become a hot spot in Anbar province. A Marine CH-46 was shot down with an al Qaeda anti-aircraft missile in Karma, and the follow on task force of U.S. Army engineers sent to secure the wreckage lost three soldiers in a sophisticated IED strike. On March 22, U.S. and Iraqi forces found a chlorine supply in a bomb factory in Baghdad.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, through its political mouthpiece the Islamic State of Iraq, has issued a denial of its involvement with chlorine suicide attacks. “The group calls accusations of their involvement in the attack part of an information campaign aimed at tarnishing the jihad of the Islamic State, and more broadly, the image of the ‘blessed global jihad,'” according to the SITE Institute. “The group asks how any ‘sane’ person can believe that the Islamic State is targeting its own people as so many move to join their military ranks.” The attempt to distance itself from such attacks is a clear indication the backlash they have received from using such devices, however this did not stop the latest attempt in Ramadi.

Al Qaeda has issued instructions and implored its operatives to use chemical weapons in the past.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.

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9 Comments

  • madconductor says:

    That picture defines what I was asking earlier – was it gas or Chlorine compounds. The picture says a 1000 words.
    I suppose they are stealing these things somewhere. And the laughable excuse by AQ (if one can laugh at them) is that they don’t “encourage” the use of chlorine bombs.
    Right. And they don’t encourage killing Sunni shieks in Anbar either.
    Great post Bill. Thank you.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    The whole country is a junk yard. It’s not that hard to hide stuff like this when there’s industrial junk of every sort everywhere. Just hid it next to all the other junk.
    That truck does look a little suspicious though. Looks like about half the tires are flat too. Nice touch.
    Is that primacord wired up to petrol/kerosene containers at the bottom?

  • Neo-andertal says:

    I see your site’s attracting moths again Bill. Too bad you can’t just get a big bug zapper for them.

  • Zach says:

    Jesus.
    The tires do look low, but that could be thanks to the Marines deciding to render the bomb immobile before EOD arrived.
    We can be thankful that so far the bombs are still crude and amateurish.
    With a bomb like that, the two tons of explosives is the real concern. In fact that many explosives would probably result in most of the chlorine being incinerated and rendered comparatively harmless.
    The chlorine attacks, unfortunately, are indicative of how Iraq is a useful training ground for terrorists. A place to refine tactics, devices, organization.
    If Al Qaeda has that much access to chlorine, it won’t be long before one of their bombmakers learns how to turn it into a truly devestating weapon.

  • RJ says:

    Maybe the excess clorine is from a lack of white clothes to wash within Iraq. I would have thought with all the blood being shed by those suicide bombs, most of the clorine inventory would have been bought up by enterprising businessmen and then sold to families for washing clothes. Of course, I don’t see our press here in America exposing this chemical warfare…sad, really sad so many here want defeat for America. And its sad that the Iraqi people have been beaten down for so many decades. They have to learn how to walk all over again, as America must learn to remove those grey shades many insist to apply to every problem we encounter. Some realties are either black or white. Clorine should not be tolerated when used as a weapon. It is way past time to kill those evil SOBs! Then again, Curtis LeMay did make that statement about a rusty knife or a nuke.
    Let’s just win, total victory if possible.

  • Tony says:

    Zach I would distinguish my view from your comment that “it won’t be long before one of their bombmakers learns how to turn it into a truly devastating weapon.”
    I can say that aerosolization of chemicals into extremely fine particles which re widely dispersed is an extraordinarily difficult engineering process. Recall the germ warfare tests the US conducted during the 1960s when a weakened form of whooping cough virus was released in the San Francisco Bay Area. The declassified documents on these tests show that the top scientists in the US were still wrestling at that time with dispersal issues and getting the nozzles exactly right after several years of laborious experimentation.
    It’s an exceptionally difficult engineering problem. So we have a little time. Not an eternity, but we have a little time and I doubt the Iraqis will master it be soon.
    Also, please recall that heat makes chlorine much less harmful. So at a minimum as we head into the summer months the lethality of these chlorine weapons decreases. This also buys us more time to develop effective countermeasures.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    Here’s a link for you.
    US Holds 300 Prisoners Linked to Iran

  • crosspatch says:

    I don’t believe they are really interest in killing as they are terrorizing. 10,000 people scared out of their wits in that location are probably more useful to al Qaida than 10,000 dead ones. They want to get the people back into line and are attempting to use intimidation to get them to stop supporting the government. If they kill them all, there is nobody to rule over.
    There comes a certain psychological tipping point, though, where such attacks only enrage the people more against them and such tactics become counter-productive. I am not sure if that line has been crossed yet in some areas, but it certainly has in others. Once that line is crossed, attacks such as these become nothing more than revenge. It is a sign they have given up and are simply using up what resources they have left.
    So in that sense, the most dangerous time is that surrounding the moment when the enemy realizes they have lost the people. Immediately before that point they are getting more violent in their attempt to intimidate, and immediately after that point to punish.

  • David says:

    Chlorine in such vessels as shown in the photo are used to chlorinate municipal drinking water or swimming pools (kill bacteria), same as in the US. My guess would be that these chlorine gas tanks were lying around a water plant after the fall of Saddam, and some enterprising Baathist thug put them on a truck and hid them for a few years, and has now sold them for cash to a group of “insurgents/guerillas/terrorists”. Whatever.
    They are improvising a way to use them to as weapons to spread terror, and they are frankly as dangerous to those criminals as to the populace at large. It is difficult to weaponize chlorine. In WWI the Germans used it against the Allies by spraying it in a mist towards the enemy trenches when the wind was right. ‘Course if the wind shifted…. Just my opinion.

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