We've heard this one before, but a senior U.S. military official said Sept. 13 that a swarm of coalition jets bombed a facility near Mosul, Iraq, he claimed was making chemical weapons for the Islamic State terrorist group.
The general in charge of Central Command's air forces said the recent strike on a former pharmaceutical plant involved a dozen aircraft — from A-10 Thunderbolt IIs to B-52 Stratofortresses — on 50 different targets.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Aaron Oelrich/Released)
"Intelligence had indicated that Daesh converted a pharmaceutical plant complex into a chemical weapons productions capability," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian during a press briefing Sept. 13. "This represents just another example of [ISIS] blatant disregard for international law and norms."
The air chief admitted there's a long history of false reporting on chemical weapons production in the Middle East, particularly with Iraq, but said intelligence pointed to specific weapons being manufactured there.
"The target set, as we better understood it, was basically a pharmaceutical element that they were, we believe, using them for most probably chlorine or mustard gas," Harrigian said. "We don't know for sure at this point."
The strike included F-15E Strike Eagles; A-10s; B-52s; Marine F/A-18D Hornets and F-16 Falcons.
"With respect to the number of airplanes we used, so as we looked at the number of points of interest ... specifically, we had a pretty significant number of them," Harrigian said. "And so to allocate the right types of weapons from the — the necessary number of platforms, we needed that many jets to be able to take out the breadth from that facility that was out there on the ground."
"The strike near Al Bab, Syria, removes from the battlefield ISIL's chief propagandist, recruiter and architect of external terrorist operations," said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook. "It is one in a series of successful strikes against ISIL leaders, including those responsible for finances and military planning, that make it harder for the group to operate."
Russia had also claimed credit for the kill, but officials say there were no Russian jets in the area at the time of the strike.