Australian troops are being told to brace for chemical weapon attacks by ISIS, as coalition forces have warned them of a likely attack in the Middle East.
The Australian defence chief, Mark Binskin, offered an update on operations in Iraq and Syria during Senate estimates on Wednesday.
He said coalition partners had been aware of possible chemical weapons usage by Isis, also known as Daesh.
“The one area that we have increased our force protection that’s been an emerging threat … is the use of some limited chemical weapons by Daesh,” Binskin said.
He said chlorine weapons and sulphur mustard, known colloquially as mustard gas, were the biggest threats from Isis.
Mustard gas is a blister agent that causes severe burning when it comes in contact with skin. The United Nations’ chemical weapons convention banned the use of mustard gas and other chemical weapons in 1993.
Binskin said Australian troops, who were on the ground in Iraq on a training mission and engaged in airstrikes over both Iraq and Syria, had not been the target of chemical attacks.
Despite that, they remained prepared, the defence chief said.
“We have adapted our force posture to be able to respond to that [threat],” he said.
The Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, indicated in June that Isis was recruiting chemical experts to develop prohibited weaponry for use in Iraq and Syria.
“Daesh is likely to have amongst its tens of thousands of recruits, the technical expertise necessary to further refine precursor materials and build chemical weapons,” Bishop said. “The fact that atrocities such as this continue to occur shows that we must remain vigilant to the threat of chemical and biological weapons.”