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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

IRAQ: Insurgents adopt new terror tactics

BAGHDAD, 20 March 2007 (IRIN) - Anti-US insurgents in Iraq are using new methods of attack four years after US forces invaded Iraq to oust the government of former president Saddam Hussein. Their latest weapon of choice is poisonous chlorine gas, which they use in bomb explosions to cause more casualties and spread panic, say specialists.

“At low exposure, chlorine gas irritates the eyes, skin and respiratory systems, but it can cause death in heavier concentrations. It burns the skin on contact and can be fatal after only a few breaths,” said Dr Marwa Fawzi Arif of Baghdad’s Yarmouk hospital.

“It has a nasty smell and has a blue or yellow colour. Symptoms range from minor lung and skin irritation to temporary blindness, limited breathing and vomiting,” Arif added.

On 16 March, three suicide bombers drove trucks laden with tanks of toxic chlorine gas and rammed into their targets in the volatile Sunni province of Anbar, about 200km west of Baghdad. Two people were killed in the attack and 350 injured, including six US troops.

Since last September, Anbar has witnessed a mounting power struggle between al-Qaeda – believed to be Iraq’s most fearful Sunni insurgent group, which has non-Iraqi Arabs as its leaders - and Sunnis who oppose them and who have vowed to drive them out.

Abu Ahmed, who said he was a spokesman for al-Qaeda, told IRIN that the militant group was prepared to use new methods in its efforts to rid Iraq of US-led forces and those who support them.

“US troops are using any means to fight us [insurgents in Iraq]. They use their chemicals so it shouldn’t be just that are blamed for the results of these attacks. The use of gas will get more response from the world, forcing multinational troops to leave our country,” Abu Ahmed said, adding that chemicals can easily be acquired or stolen in Iraq, particularly from government and US sources.

Chlorine not hard to get

A police officer who talked on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorised to talk to the media, backed up Abu Ahmed’s comments. “It is not hard to get any amount of chlorine gas from any privately owned chemical company in Baghdad as it is used for industrial purposes like in water purification plants, bleaches and disinfectants,” he said.

Recent attacks using chemicals have prompted the Iraqi government to keep an eye on those who deal in or handle toxic gas in private or governmental plants.

Insurgents have launched a number of bomb attacks with chlorine gas since 28 January. The first was when a suicide bomber crashed into a police station in Ramadi with a truck filled with explosives and chlorine, killing 16 people.

The second, also in Ramadi, occurred on 19 February when a car bombing involving chlorine killed two Iraqi security officers and wounded 16 other people, including 13 civilians.

On 21 February, five people were killed and more than 55 were injured in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, again involving chlorine, a day after a bomb planted on a chlorine tanker left more than 150 villagers injured near Taji, about 20km north of the capital.

Last month, the US military found a car bomb factory near Fallujah with about 65 propane tanks and ordinary chemicals it believed insurgents were going to try to mix with explosives.

“We want them [the Americans] out of this land and we will do whatever is needed to make it happen, even if the attacks cost more Iraqi lives - at least someone is dying for the freedom of their country from the hands of US forces,” said Abu Ahmed.

sm/ar/ed

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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