iraqi town suffering after isis chemical attack damon pkg cnn today_00010115.jpg
Iraqi town suffering from ISIS chemical attack
02:34 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

The threat posed by drones and ISIS has already materialized on the battlefield

Last month, the United States bombed an ISIS chemical weapons plant

Washington CNN  — 

Terrorist groups like ISIS are looking for new ways to employ drone technology that could one day deliver chemical weapons or unleash similar catastrophes, according to a new report.

The report from the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the US Military Academy at West Point documents at least four terrorist groups, mainly based in the Middle East, have programs studying how to leverage more resources and infrastructure for producing drones.

While the report rates the current ability of terror groups to mount a lethal attack through a drone as “low to moderate,” the threat posed by unmanned aerial vehicles and ISIS has already materialized on the battlefield.

Earlier this month, ISIS attacked a Kurdish defensive post using a drone carrying “some sort of explosives,” a senior Peshmerga officer said at the time. The attack killed two Peshmerga soldiers and injured two French military personnel north of Mosul, Iraq, the Peshmerga officer said.

While the technology employed by ISIS has been comprised of commercial items available to any consumer, Major Gen. Gary J. Volesky, commander of coalition forces fighting ISIS in Iraq, said the US is keeping an eye on it.

The drones are “clearly not the capacity or capability that, that we have, but they are using them,” he told reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday. “We have seen them, and we’re taking measures to mitigate that.”

Beyond the battlefield in Iraq and Syria, the CTC report says terror groups seem to have advanced the most at using drones for surveillance and strategic communications.

But, the report finds, “terrorist interest in drones as an attack platform has been diverse and has spanned a number of ideologies and geographic regions.”

And with the proliferation of various drones and reduction in their sizes, among other factors, the report warns that a “tipping point” of more diffuse use by terrorist groups may not be far off.

In June 2013, Iraqi authorities arrested five men tied to ISIS who were reportedly planning to use helicopters to release Sarin and mustard gas as part of an attack against targets in Iraq, North America and Europe.

Last month, the United States bombed an ISIS chemical weapons plant that was housed in a converted Iraqi pharmaceutical factory, and the US-led coalition has targeted key ISIS figures involved in its chemical weapons program.

“We have been very, very focused with our targeting to go after those places where we think this is being produced, those individuals that are producing it, and the resources they require to do that,” Gen. Joseph Votel, the top military commander for US forces throughout the Middle East, said at the Center for American Progress in Washington on Wednesday.

ISIS’ development of chemical weapons is not “an overly sophisticated threat at this particular point, but yet it is out there, and so we have got to continue to address that” he said.