The Kurdistan Regional Security Council is claiming that Islamic State forces have used chemical weapons against their soldiers.
And they say they have the evidence to prove it.
This is not the first allegation that IS has used gas against the Kurds. Last October, Iraqi officials claimed ISIS militants may have used chlorine-filled cylinders during clashes in late September in the towns of Balad and Duluiya.
This particular incident occurred in late January and involved a suicide truck bomb.
The allegation by the Kurdistan Region Security Council, stemming from a Jan. 23 suicide truck bomb attack in northern Iraq, did not immediately draw a reaction from the Islamic State group, which holds a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate. However, Iraqi officials and Kurds fighting in Syria have made similar allegations about the militants using the low-grade chemical weapons against them.
In a statement, the council said the alleged chemical attack took place on a road between Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and the Syrian border, as peshmerga forces fought to seize a vital supply line used by the Sunni militants. It said its fighters later found “around 20 gas canisters” that had been loaded onto the truck involved in the attack.
Video provided by the council showed a truck racing down a road, white smoke pouring out of it as it came under heavy fire from peshmerga fighters. It later showed a white, billowing cloud after the truck exploded and the remnants of it scattered across a road.
An official with the Kurdish council told The Associated Press that dozens of peshmerga fighters were treated for “dizziness, nausea, vomiting and general weakness” after the attack. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the incident.
The Kurds say samples of clothing and soil from the site were analyzed by an unnamed lab in an unnamed coalition partner nation, which found chlorine traces.
“The fact ISIS relies on such tactics demonstrates it has lost the initiative and is resorting to desperate measures,” the Kurdish government said in the statement, using an alternate acronym for the Sunni militant group.
There was no independent confirmation of the Kurds’ claim. Peter Sawczak, a spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has monitored Syria dismantling its chemical weapons stockpile, said his group had not been asked to investigate the attack.
It appears that these weapons are crudely constructed. But that won’t lessen their ability to kill and maim a lot of soldiers. More to the point, they are terror weapons, designed to inflict maximum fear in the opposing army. Using them gives Islamic State a psychological edge on the battlefield.
Chlorine is the poor man’s WMD. And given the likelihood that IS is in possession of large quantities of the gas, defeating them on the ground has become even more difficult than it already was.