MOSCOW, October 24 (RIA Novosti) - The Islamic State militants have used chlorine against Iraqi security forces and Shia militias in September north of Baghdad in what appears to be the first documented use of this gas by the radical Sunni group since their blitz offensive in June, Associated Press reports, citing Iraqi officials.
Chlorine gas was allegedly used in the town of Duluiyah, located 75 kilometers (45 miles) north of the Iraqi capital, on September 15. Security forces exchanged fire with Islamists, who then retreated. Soon after, Iraqis heard “a strange explosion”, a survivor of the attack recalled, according to the Washington Post. The explosion was followed by “a yellow smoke in the sky,” said Lt. Khairalla al-Jabbouri, 31, as quoted by the newspaper. “I felt suffocated,” al-Jabbouri stated, adding he “was throwing up and couldn’t breathe.”
The fog hung close to the ground, a possible sign of chlorine, as the gas is heavier than air.
The officers were brought to a hospital in Duluiyah and later transferred to the nearby town of Balad. They displayed symptoms consistent with chlorine poisoning - eye and skin irritation and difficulty in breathing and coughing. The doctors “initially thought it might be a more serious gas, a nerve gas or an organophosphate,” said Kasim Hatim, the director of the hospital in Balad, as quoted by the Washington Post. However, they later confirmed the gas used by the Islamic State was chlorine.
Islamic State militants could have found the gas at water purification plants, located in the areas they have seized recently, the AP stated. “IS group has some experts who were able to manufacture chlorine shells,” a senior Iraqi official, who wished to remain anonymous, said, as quoted by the news agency.
“They use it just to create terror,” said another unnamed Iraqi official, as quoted by the Washington Post. “But of course we are very concerned.”
The United States is set to probe reports that the Islamic State used chlorine.
Chlorine, a choking agent, was first used by the Germans in Belgium in 1915. It is banned as a weapon by the Chemical Weapons Convention, brought into force in 1997. However, chlorine has industrial and water purification uses.