IS Suspected of Using Mustard Gas in Syria

IS Suspected of Using Mustard Gas in Syria
IS Suspected of Using Mustard Gas in Syria

The Islamic State militant group is suspected of having used mustard gas against civilians in Syria’s northern Aleppo Province.

A medical group reported that those injured after at least 50 mortar shells were fired at residential areas of the town of Marea on Friday were exhibiting symptoms of chemical exposure, Al Jazeera reported.

Local sources told the Syrian American Medical Society, a non-profit humanitarian organization, that IS insurgents carried out the attack.

SAMS said one of its field hospitals in Aleppo received injured civilians with symptoms including respiratory irritation, wheezing, coughing, irritation and redness of the eyes and mucous membranes, skin irritation and severe itching.

Roughly 30 civilians developed skin blisters, with doctors identifying the cause to be mustard gas, SAMS reported. No deaths have been reported as of yet.

Mustard gas, also known as sulfur mustard, is a chemical compound that has been used as a chemical weapon during World War I.

The targeting of civilians and the use of mustard gas are violations of international humanitarian law as per the Geneva Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention.

SAMS said its volunteers had taken samples from patient blood, clothing and hair from the shelling site to be assessed.

Marea is on the frontline of fighting between IS and the Islamic Front, an offshoot of the Free Syrian Army comprised of almost a dozen factions, including Ahrar Al-Sham and Al-Tawhid brigade.

The town is located along the highway linking Aleppo to the Turkish border, which makes it significant for IS as to being a way to transport supplies and bring fighters.

 Foul Smell

Tariq Najjar, a nurse and head of the local hospital in Marea, said initially those injured in the shelling had what looked like conventional shrapnel wounds. But the hospital staff detected a foul smell coming from the injuries.

Hours later, he said, victims began coming in with all the symptoms of chemical warfare, including labored breathing, red skin patches and diarrhea. Symptoms from mustard gas do not immediately appear and have an incubation period of at least several hours.

He said the victims included a family with two young children. A shell had hit their house, Najjar said. By Saturday, a few of the most severe cases had developed large pustules all over their bodies, he said.

 Chlorine Attack in Syria

The US confirmed earlier this month that IS extremists used mustard agent for the first time in late July against Kurdish forces in northern Syria. Preliminary tests showed mustard agent was also used by the militants in at least two attacks in August against Iraqi Kurdish forces.

The news followed claims in March by the autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq that said it had evidence the group had used chlorine in a car bomb attack on January 23.

Though chlorine was not one of the chemicals required to be removed by the 2013 agreement overseen by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, The Hague-based watchdog group, sent a mission to Syria last August to investigate claims of such attacks.

OPCW has confirmed that chlorine gas was used to attack three villages in northern Syria from April to August 2014, though it did not assign blame.