BAGHDAD – Iraq’s Defense Ministry said Saturday it has broken up an al-Qaida cell that was working to produce poison gas for attacks within the country as well as in Europe and North America.
The five-member group built two facilities in Baghdad to produce sarin and mustard gas, using instructions from another al-Qaida group, spokesman Mohammed al-Askari told a news conference.
The members were prepared to launch attacks domestically and also had a network to smuggle the toxins to neighboring countries, as well as further afield to Europe and North America, al-Askari said.
Iraq and Syria share a 600-km border, and officials have warned that al-Qaida-linked Sunni militants opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Shiite-led government in Baghdad have set up camp in Iraq’s western desert region.
Former President Saddam Hussein’s forces used poison gas to attack the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988, killing an estimated 5,000 people.