US confirms Isil now using chemical weapons in assault on Kurdish militia in northern Syria
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) used mustard gas in its fight against a Kurdish militia in Syria, tests have confirmed.
Unnamed US government officials involved in investigating alleged chemical weapon use by Isil in the north-eastern Syrian city of Hasakeh confirmed mustard gas had been used, according to the Washington Post and CNN.
Mustard gas, used during World War I, can cause blisters, blindness and respiratory damage and is an internationally-banned chemical weapon.
Last month, members of a Syrian Kurdish militia, the People's Defense Units or YPG, said projectiles fired by Isil's jihadists had released "a yellow gas with a strong smell of onions".
"The ground immediately around the impact sites was stained with an olive green liquid that turned to a golden yellow after exposure to sunshine," said a statement released by the YPG, which claimed soldiers exposed to the gas had experienced burning sensations, vomiting and other symptoms indicative of a chemical weapon attack.
Samples from the site were sent for analysis in the US and France.
One official said the mustard agent used in Syria is more likely precursor chemicals, rather than a complex munition, a sign this did not come from a cache of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad but was probably mixed by Isil on its own, using agents or precursor chemicals it obtained. "The result of the test revealed they [Isil] used mustard gas," said Brigadier General Sirwan Barzani, commanding officer of the Kurdish Peshmerga infantry division in the area.
The attack adds to a number of allegations of chemical use by Isil.
On Friday, the German defence ministry issued a statement saying Kurdish fighters in neighbouring Iraq, known as the Peshmerga, had suffered severe burns when Isil had used mortars tipped with chemical materials against them.
Monitoring groups have documented several instances in which the extremist group has used less lethal chlorine gas against Kurdish forces in Iraq, as well as military personnel. However, this is the first confirmed use of mustard agent.