The Islamic State was confirmed to have used chemical weapons against Kurds this week.
Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported today that the German military, which is helping train Peshmerga and is supplying the Kurds directly instead of through Baghdad, confirmed the discovery:
The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq had asked for international help to determine whether chemical weapons had been used in an attack late Tuesday on the Peshmerga on the Makhmur front, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) southwest of Erbil.
There was a “possible chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish frontlines at sector six,” the German defense ministry said.
Muhammad Khoshawi, a Peshmerga commander, told Rudaw on Wednesday that a group of Western experts had arrived in the area to take samples and establish facts after a Tuesday night mortar attack on Kurdish positions in Makhmur, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) southwest of Erbil.
“Last night at least 45 mortar rounds were fired at our positions, which we believe were loaded with chemicals, since the wounds are different,” Khoshawi, whose forces patrol the area, had said.
Burn wounds on the bodies of a number of Peshmerga were examined by the experts and sent to a laboratory for further studies, according to Khoshawi.
He said Peshmerga forces in the area were instructed to use gas masks in case of mortar attacks until results are verified in the laboratory.
This spring, the Kurdish government informed its allies that Peshmerga forces were attacked with chlorine gas. Late last year, ISIS repotedly seized an Iraqi chemical weapons factory with about 2,500 rockets, containing the deadly nerve agent Sarin.
The Pentagon said the report of the chemical weapons use was “credible” and the agent is believed to be mustard gas. “ISIS is a group that has demonstrated time and again its willingness to stop at nothing,” an anonymous official told CBS News. “This is further evidence of that.”
The chemical agent was delivered via mortars or artillery shells, and the Germans said none of their personnel were affected. The attack occurred southwest of the Kurdish capital Irbil.
Last month ISIS attacked Peshmerga with agents “consistent with a chlorine chemical” — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapon of choice after the Obama administration claimed they successfully liquidated the dictator’s stockpile.
The New York Times reported then that ISIS was manufacturing tainted shells with “toxic industrial or agricultural chemicals repurposed as weapons.”
In May, the Organisation for the Prohibition and Chemical Weapons inspectors found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a military research site in Syria that was not declared as a chemical weapons storage or production facility.
State Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters today that he had not seen reports of ISIS’ chemical weapons use.