ISIS Allegedly Used Chemical Weapons in Mosul Battle, Injuring Civilians
A man cries as he carries his daughter while walking from an ISIS-controlled part of Mosul towards Iraqi special forces soldiers during a battle in Mosul, Iraq on Mar. 4, 2017.Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
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ISIS militants used chemical weapons during the battle for the city of Mosul last week, injuring a number of civilians, according to a senior Iraqi security official.
The official’s assessment comes after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), issued a statement last week saying that their workers had treated patients from Mosul who were suffering from symptoms consistent with exposure to a toxic chemical agent.
Over a number of days last week, the ICRC said it treated 15 such patients.
“The first cases who arrived were a mother and her five children, aged from 1 month to 11 years,” Iolanda Jaquemet, an ICRC spokeswoman, told NBC News.
“It was certainly [the result of] a toxic chemical agent, because their symptoms were absolutely clear. People had blisters, they vomited. They had irritation in the eyes and coughed,” she added.
Describing the attacks, which took place on March 1 and 2, the official said: “ISIS militants launched a number of Katyusha rockets [targeting] the eastern coast of the city of Mosul, which is under the control of Iraqi forces. They launched those rockets from the western coast that is not completely liberated. Those rockets hit three neighborhoods in the eastern coast that are Al-Zuhur, Al-Mishraq and the Northern Bus Station.
“At least 12 locals had been affected by what is believed mustard gas, among those locals a 2-month-old baby, as well as women,” the official added.
The manufacture or use of chemical weapons is prohibited by an international treaty, which has been signed by almost every country in the world.
“In general, families arriving are very hungry, very dehydrated and very traumatized. Some families have talked about fleeing and seeing people killed by sniper fire and car bombs,” Caroline Gluck, a senior public information officer with the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR, told NBC News by phone from Iraq.
“Families that I talked to today had been surviving for weeks on flour and water. Sometimes some tomato paste and maybe a bit of bread. Food prices have shot up — a kilo of sugar is roughly $20.
“People are also talking about how cold it has been, and they’ve been burning anything they can find to stay warm, so furniture and plastic. They’re tearing tables and chairs apart in order to stay warm. It seems that primarily hunger has been one of the drivers as to why families have left,” she added.
Even those who managed to flee with their lives face an uncertain future. Gluck said that the camps housing displaced people were rapidly filling to capacity.
"Pretty soon shelter and camp space will become a critical issue, because the numbers are getting higher and we’re running out of space," she said.
Mosul is the last remaining urban center controlled by ISIS in Iraq. Government forces captured the eastern side of the city in January 2017, after 100 days of fighting. The city’s capture would be effectively crush the Iraqi wing of the group’s self-declared caliphate.