Investigators Probe Chemical Weapons Use by IS in Iraq
August 14, 2015
by VOA News
The international group that investigates chemical-weapons incidents says it is ready to pursue claims that Islamic State (IS) fighters are using mustard gas against Kurdish forces in Iraq.
A spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says the group is ready to act as soon as Iraq, one of its member states, asks for help.
The IS group has been accused of using chemical weapons in the past, but the latest incident allegedly occurred this week. German defense officials say about 60 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were exposed to mustard gas — a known chemical agent that is banned by international agreements — during a battle with IS militants on Wednesday.
OPCW spokesman Malik Ellahi said his group has not yet received any information from its member states about the mustard-gas incident, "but we are quite willing to follow up on any substantial claims provided to us."
The spokesman told VOA the OPCW hopes to hear from the Iraqi government on the alleged gassing incident. Based on news-media accounts, "the Iraqis should be interested in pursuing it," Ellahi told VOA.
Neither Germany, which has been training Kurdish forces, nor the United States yet has presented evidence of chemical-weapons use in Iraq to the OPCW. Peshmerga fighters are a key element of the U.S.-led military campaign to oust IS extremists from Iraq and Syria.
The United States says it is seeking further information about the reported clash between Kurdish forces and IS fighters. White House National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey said Thursday that Washington takes "all allegations of chemical weapons use very seriously."
The Wall Street Journal has quoted unnamed U.S. officials who say the government already has "credible information" about IS fighters using mustard gas, which the militants likely acquired in Syria.
Reports in the past by U.S. intelligence agencies indicated that IS fighters have used toxic chlorine gas as a weapon.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also has been accused of using chemical weapons during the over four-year civil war in his country — charges that he denies. Syria agreed in 2013 to have international monitors destroy its declared chemical weapons stockpile. However, there are suspicions that Damascus continues to use other supplies of chlorine to attack rebels.
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