The leader of the Islamic State group's chemical weapons division has been captured by American officials, the Associated Press reported exclusively Wednesday. Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, who previously worked under former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, was caught in a February raid close to Tal Afar, Iraq.
The news agency cited unidentified Iraqi intelligence sources and noted the U.S. would not confirm the report.
American officials have suggested for months that the terrorist group, also known as ISIS, has chemical weapons, including mustard gas, in its arsenal. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told reporters last month that the U.S. was closely monitoring ISIS' chemical weapons tests and taking "action" against them. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said during a speech Feb. 12 in Munich that it was "very clear" ISIS wanted to use the weapons against the U.S.
“Potentially it is a game changer," he said, according to the Guardian. "There are all kinds of scary scenarios you are able to conjure up if in fact Daesh is able to enhance its competence with chemical weapons," Clapper added, using another name for ISIS.
The Daily Beast reported that the U.S. has targeted at least two chemical weapons facilities with airstrikes in recent months. The information that inspired the attacks reportedly came from an Iraqi man in American custody, though no other details were available Wednesday.
The New York Times also reported that a chemical weapons expert was being detained in Erbil, Iraq, but did not identify him. The Defense Department said the ISIS detainee would be given to local authorities after interrogation.
Last month, House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called out the Obama administration’s "halfhearted attempts to degrade and destroy" ISIS.
"In the time ISIS has had to solidify its position, the terrorist organization has developed chemical weapons, including sulfur mustard, a blister agent, and mustard gas," he said in a statement to the Hill. "This proliferation and increased use of chemical weapons is dangerous and violates all standards of humanity. The longer we allow ISIS to exist, the more ISIS can develop these weapons and use them against our allies or potentially even American troops in the region."