Tuesday 28 February 2017

Isil terrorists 'may try to target West with chemical weapons'

Robert Tait

Investigating police officers are pictured outside Saint Denis
Investigating police officers are pictured outside Saint Denis
People work inside the damaged building of Wednesday's raid on an apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isil) terrorists may try to attack Western targets with chemical or biological weapons, France warned yesterday, as diplomatic attempts intensified to build a united military front against the jihadist group.

The prospect was raised by Manuel Valls, France's prime minister, after Francois Hollande, the country's president, said he would travel to Washington and Moscow in the coming days to meet Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin in an effort to form a stronger anti-Isil coalition following last week's deadly attacks on Paris.

US and Iraqi intelligence officials say the terrorist group is aggressively pursuing development of chemical weapons, setting up a branch dedicated to research and experiments with the help of scientists from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the region.

Experts have questioned whether they would have the logistical capabilities to deploy chemical agents outside the Middle East.

But a day after a seven-hour shoot-out in a Paris suburb appeared to have killed Abdelhamid Abaaoud (27), the main suspect in the attacks, Mr Valls called for a three-month state of emergency and warned that there could be further attacks - this time with unconventional weapons.

"Terrorism hit France not because of what it is doing in Iraq and Syria... but for what it is," he told the French parliament's lower chamber. "We know that there could also be a risk of chemical or biological weapons."

Antidote

While he did not say there was a specific warning of such an attack, hospitals and emergency services in France have been supplied with the most powerful antidote to sarin and other chemical nerve gases for the first time.

The French army's medical services sent out stocks of the drug, atropine, under a decree issued on November 14, the day after the attacks, which killed 129 people. The move was said to have been planned for months but Mr Valls said nothing could be left to chance.

American officials said that most, though not all, of the five identified attackers involved in last Friday's atrocities, were on a US no-fly list.

The French authorities, in contrast, have said that the identities of most of the attackers were unknown to them.

A state of emergency in force since the attacks has given police extra powers to carry out searches and empowered authorities to restrict the movement of persons. The French parliament is expected to vote by the end of the week on whether to extend it. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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