Isil 'used chemical weapons' against Kurdish troops in Iraq
Published 15/08/2015 | 02:30
German troops involved in a coalition training mission in Iraq have reported that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) fighters have used chemical weapons against the Kurdish militia.
The German commanders, who have been mentoring the Kurds on Isil's front lines in northern Iraq, sent an urgent message to the German defence ministry in Berlin after hearing that the Kurds had been attacked on Wednesday.
The Kurdish fighters, whose militia is known as the Peshmerga, told the Germans that some had suffered severe burns to their bodies, while others had difficulty breathing.
US and French chemical weapons specialists arrived in the area on Thursday to take samples and determine whether chemical weapons had indeed been used.
There have been repeated claims of Isil using chlorine gas in attacks in Iraq in recent weeks, raising fears that jihadists could also dispatch fighters to carry out chemical attacks in Europe.
The latest incident took place on Kurdish positions near the town of Makhmur, some 22 miles south-west of Erbil.
"The terrorist Daesh (Isil) launched 45 120mm mortar shells tipped with chemical heads on Peshmerga positions, which led to the injury of a number of Peshmerga forces with burns on different parts of their bodies," the Peshmerga General Command said in an official statement.
This had led to "the arrival of a joint American and French military team at the site of the incident to commence an investigation into the type of material used".
Some 90 German soldiers are stationed in Erbil on a mission to train Peshmerga troops in the use of sophisticated weapons. German troops stationed nearby believe the attack is consistent with the use of chemical-tipped mortar or artillery shells.
Their commanders sent a report on the attack to Berlin on Wednesday evening, which was taken seriously enough to be taken directly to the defence minister, according to 'Bild' newspaper.
The defence ministry in Germany, which is providing arms and weapons training to the Kurdish forces, said earlier "there was a chemical weapons attack" near Erbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.
A second ministry spokesman later stressed that German forces were not present during the attack, but that "we have indications that there was an attack with chemical weapons".
German troops are not taking any extra precautions, the defence ministry said, as they were nearly 40 miles from the scene of the attack.
"Last night at least 45 mortar rounds were fired at our positions, which we believe were loaded with chemicals, since the wounds are different," Mohammed Khoshawi, a Peshmerga commander, said.
Peshmerga forces have been instructed to use gas masks during future mortar attacks, he added.
Kurdish fighters have been subjected to such attacks in the past. During two attacks in Hasakeh province on June 28, it was reported that upon impact, projectiles filled with an unknown chemical agent had released a yellow gas "with a strong smell of rotten onions". There were no deaths but troops exposed to it had experienced burning of the throat, eyes and nose, severe headaches, muscle pain, impaired concentration and mobility, and vomiting.
"Although these chemical attacks appear to be test cases, we expect Isil construction skills to advance rapidly as they have for other IEDS (improvised explosive devices)," said a spokesman at the time. (© Daily Telegraph, London)