Samples confirm ISIS\'s use of mustard gas in Iraq

Friday 12/02/2016
ISIS threat is still rising

THE HAGUE - Mustard gas was used in two attacks in Iraq near the Kurdish capital of Arbil in August last year, sources close to the world\'s chemical watchdog said on Monday.

\"The results of some sampling have confirmed the use of mustard gas,\" sources said, referring to an investigation by the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The revelation comes days after US officials said that ISIS jihadist fighters had the capability to make small quantities of chlorine and mustard gas and had used it in war-torn Syria and Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdish authorities last year said two attacks were carried out by Islamic State group fighters on August 11 on the towns of Gweyr and Makhmur southwest of Arbil, during which around 50 mortar rounds were launched.

The peshmerga ministry said \"37 of the rounds released a white dust and black liquid when they exploded. Thirty-five peshmerga fighters were exposed and some were taken for treatment\".

\"The results of the tests on blood samples... reveal traces of mustard gas,\" the ministry said at the time.

OPCW spokesman Malik Ellahi confirmed the watchdog had sent a team of experts to help Iraq in its investigation into possible chemical weapons.

\"The team completed its mission and the OPCW has shared the results of its technical work with the government of Iraq,\" Ellahi said in a statement.

\"The complete findings and conclusions can be expected to be issued by the government of Iraq together with the OPCW inputs,\" he said, declining to give further details.

Mustard gas has also been dubbed Yperite because it was first used near the Belgian city of Ypres in July 1917 by the German army.

An oily yellow almost liquid-like substance that smells like garlic or mustard, the gas causes the skin to break out in painful blisters, irritates eyes and causes eyelids to swell up, temporarily blinding its victims.

Classified as a Category 1 substance, which means it\'s seldom used outside of chemical warfare, mustard gas was banned by the UN in 1993.

ISIS fighters launched a lightning offensive in Iraq in 2014, allowing it to take control of swathes of territory north of Baghdad and in the Kurdistan region.