Report: ISIL used mustard gas against Kurds in Iraq

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Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) used the chemical agent mustard gas in attacks on Kurdish forces in Iraq in 2015, according to tests by a chemical arms watchdog group.

A source at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) told Reuters that “laboratory tests had come back positive for the sulphur mustard” as at least 30 Kurdish troops displayed symptoms of exposure to the agent after battling ISIL jihadists in August 2015.

A cannon capsule is seen following an Isis mustard gas attack on Kurdish troops in Iraq. /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A cannon capsule is seen following a reported ISIL mustard gas attack on Kurdish troops in Iraq. /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“I’m pretty convinced that the mustard ISIL are using in Iraq is made by them in Mosul,” said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a specialist in biological and chemical warfare. “They have all the precursors at hand from the oil industry and all the experts at hand to do it.”

Sulphur mustard is a class 1 chemical agent. The designation means it has very few uses outside of chemical warfare. The agent was heavily used with great effectiveness in World War I. It causes severe delayed burns to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract.

Samples in Iraq were taken after Kurdish soldiers became ill during fighting against ISIL near Erbil, capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

A second diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Syria’s stockpile “was a possible source of the sulphur mustard used in Iraq.”

“If Syria has indeed given up its chemical weapons to the international community, it is only the part that has been declared to the OPCW and the declaration was obviously incomplete,” the diplomat told Reuters.