An undisclosed diplomat confirmed that the Islamic State militants attacked Kurdish forces in Iraq with mustard gas last year.
He said on Tuesday in Amsterdam that this was the first he first known use of chemical weapons in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, after tests by the global chemical arms watchdog.
The diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the findings have not yet been released, said the result confirmed that chemical weapons had been used by Islamic State fighters.
He said the samples were taken after the soldiers became ill during fighting against Islamic State militants southwest of Erbil, capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
The diplomat said OPCW had already concluded in October that mustard gas was used last year in neighbouring Syria.
“Islamic State has declared a “caliphate” in territory it controls in both Iraq and Syria and does not recognise the frontier.
He said the matter was expected to be raised at the next meeting of the OPCW’s 41-member Executive Council in a month.
“If Islamic State used chemical weapons, experts are still uncertain of how the group might have obtained them, or whether it could have access to more.
Another source at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed that laboratory tests had come back positive for the sulphur mustard, after around 35 Kurdish troops were sickened on the battlefield last August.
He said on condition of anonymity, that the OPCW would not identify who used the chemical agent and Syria’s stockpile was a possible source of the sulphur mustard used in Iraq.
He said it means that Damascus had failed to fully disclose its chemical weapons programme, which was dismantled under international supervision in 2013-2014.
The diplomat said if Syria had indeed given up its chemical weapons to the international community, it was only the part that had been declared to the OPCW and the declaration was obviously incomplete.
Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons stockpile after hundreds of people died in an attack with Sarin nerve gas in a Damascus suburb in 2013.
Western countries blamed that attack on the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which denied it.
Iraq’s chemical arsenal, part of a “weapons of mass destruction” programme used to justify the U.S.,British invasion of 2003, proved to have been destroyed and dismantled in the Saddam era.
Although U.S. troops occasionally encountered old Saddam-era chemical munitions during the 2003-2011 occupation.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a specialist in biological and chemical warfare, said Islamic State fighters may have developed their own chemical weapons capability, and could be preparing to use it again.
“I’m pretty convinced that the mustard IS are using in Iraq is made by them in Mosul.
“They have all the precursors at hand from the oil industry and all the experts at hand to do it,” he said.
Sulphur mustard is a Class 1 chemical agent, which means it has very few uses outside chemical warfare.
Used with lethal effectiveness in World War One, it causes severe delayed burns to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. (Reuters/NAN)
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