US ex­pects IS to use chem­i­cal weapons in Mo­sul

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

WASH­ING­TON: The United States ex­pects the Is­lamic State (IS) to use crude chem­i­cal weapons as it tries to re­pel an Iraqi-led of­fen­sive on the city of Mo­sul, US of­fi­cials say, although adding that the group’s tech­ni­cal abil­ity to de­velop such weapons is highly lim­ited.

US forces have be­gun to reg­u­larly col­lect shell frag­ments to test for pos­si­ble chem­i­cal agents, given IS use of mus­tard agent in the months be­fore Mon­day’s launch of the Mo­sul of­fen­sive, one of­fi­cial said.

In a pre­vi­ously undis­closed in­ci­dent, US forces con­firmed the pres­ence of a sul­fur mus­tard agent on IS mu­ni­tion frag­ments on Oct 5, a sec­ond of­fi­cial said.

The IS had tar­geted lo­cal forces, not US or coali­tion troops.

“Given IS’s rep­re­hen­si­ble be­hav­iour and fla­grant dis­re­gard for in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and norms, this event is not sur­pris­ing,” the sec­ond of­fi­cial said, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity.

US of­fi­cials do not be­lieve IS has been suc­cess­ful so far at de­vel­op­ing chem­i­cal weapons with par­tic­u­larly lethal ef­fects, mean­ing that con­ven­tional weapons are still the most dan­ger­ous threat for ad­vanc­ing Iraqi and Kur­dish forces – and any for­eign ad­vis­ers who get close enough.

Sul­fur mus­tard agents can cause blis­ter­ing on ex­posed skin and lungs. At low doses, how­ever, that would not be deadly.

Roughly 5,000 US forces are in Iraq. More than 100 of them are em­bed­ded with Iraqi and Kur­dish Pesh­merga forces in­volved with the Mo­sul of­fen­sive, ad­vis­ing com­man­ders and help­ing them en­sure coali­tion air power hits the right tar­gets, of­fi­cials said. Still, those forces are not at the front lines, they added.

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama es­ti­mated last week that per­haps one mil­lion civil­ians are still in Mo­sul, cre­at­ing a chal­lenge for those try­ing to ex­pel the group through force.

IS fight­ers were pre­vent­ing peo­ple flee­ing Mo­sul, res­i­dents said, and one said they di­rected some to­wards build­ings they had re­cently used them­selves.

“It’s quite clear Daesh (IS) has started to use civil­ians as hu­man shields by al­low­ing fam­i­lies to stay in build­ings likely to be tar­geted by air strikes,” said Abu Mahir, who lives near the city’s univer­sity. – Reuters

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