IS fires sus­pected chem­i­cal shell at US troops

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

WASH­ING­TON: A rocket fired by Is­lamic State (IS) mil­i­tants at Amer­cian forces in Iraq may have car­ried a chem­i­cal agent, a US de­fence of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day.

No one was in­jured in Tues­day’s blast near an air­field by the north­ern town of Qay­yarah and no one showed any im­me­di­ate signs of ex­po­sure to the sus­pected mus­tard agent, the of­fi­cial said.

Sev­eral hun­dred US troops are work­ing with Iraqi part­ners to strengthen the air­field ahead of a push on the IS strong­hold of Mo­sul.

The de­fence of­fi­cial, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, said an in­com­ing round had ex­ploded within the base perime­ter dur­ing an “in­di­rect fire” at­tack.

A small team of US troops later in­spected the frag­mented or­di­nance and found one bit with a sus­pi­cious, tar-like black oily sub­stance that they tested in the field.

That ini­tial test was pos­i­tive for a “mus­tard agent”.

A sec­ond test was nega­tive, and a third sam­ple has been sent to a proper lab­o­ra­tory for de­fin­i­tive anal­y­sis.

The of­fi­cial down­played the se­ri­ous­ness of the in­ci­dent, say­ing the shell would have been “mil­i­tar­ily in­ef­fec­tive”.

“Our con­cern is not much greater af­ter see­ing this,” he said.

Still, the troops who han­dled the frag­ments went through a stan­dard de­con­tam­i­na­tion pro­ce­dure.

US-led coali­tion war­planes last week de­stroyed a fac­tory near Mo­sul sus­pected of be­ing used by IS to make chem­i­cal weapons.

Ob­servers have re­peat­edly al­leged the mil­i­tant group has used chem­i­cal weapons, and the Pen­tagon has con­firmed the mil­i­tants have de­ployed chlo­rine and sul­fur mus­tard de­vices.

Iraqi se­cu­rity forces, backed by coali­tion air power, are in the fi­nal weeks of “shap­ing” op­er­a­tions ahead of an as­sault to re­cap­ture Mo­sul, which IS seized in 2014 and which re­mains the ji­hadists’ last main strong­hold in Iraq. – AFP

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