Chemical attacks on Kurds —in Iraq and Syria

ISIS used "poisonous substances" during the shelling of a village in northern Iraq on March 8, with local officials reporting that over 40 residents suffered breathing problems and skin irritation, and five fell unconscious. The agents were released as ISIS fired mortar shells and rockets on Tuz Khurmatu (also rendered Taza), a Shi'ite Turkmen village south of Kirkuk. (TeleSur, Al Bawaba, March 10) This was just the latest in a growing number of such reports. On March 2, the Tal Afar district near Sinjar was hit by at least six rockets that emitted a yellow smoke on impact. Three civilians, including two children, were hospitalized with nausea, vomiting and skin irritation. On Feb. 25, after ISIS rockets hit Sinjar, nearly 200 people were treated for severe vomiting, nausea and headaches. (USA Today, March 10) Three Peshmerga troops were hospitalized after ISIS launched shells loaded with what was believed to be mustard gas on the Makhmour front Feb. 17. (Rudaw, Feb. 17)

It is now documented that ISIS repeatedly used chemical weapons against Kurdish forces in northern Iraq last year. A source at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed in February that laboratory analysis had come back positive for sulphur mustard, after testing of samples taken from a site where 35 Peshmerga troops were sickened on the battlefield last August. (Reuters, Feb. 23)

The Pentagon announced on March 10 that it had captured the ISIS chemical weapons chief in Iraq during an operation in February. Sulayman Dawud al-Bakkar AKA "Abu Dawud" was was transferred to Iraqi government custody, the Pentagon said, adding that his capture "removed a key ISIL leader from the battlefield." The statement said the Pentagon learned details about ISIS chemical weapon facilities and production from his inerrogation, resulting in air-strikes that degraded its capabilities. (Reuters, March 10)

Meanwhile in northern Syria, the Kurdish YPG miltia issued a statement accusing Islamist factions in Aleppo of using "yellow phosphorus" in an attack on the a Kurdish district. According to a report on Russian state media outlet RT, YPG spokesman Redur Xelilm blamed the chemical attack on factions including Ahrar al-Sham and the Sultan Murad Brigade. The attack came amid fighting for control of the city's Sheikh Maqsood district, in which the Islamist factions accused YPG snipers of killing several civilains and collaborating with regime forces. (ANSA, Reuters, March 9)