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ISISMore evidence emerges of ISIS’s use of chemical weapons

Published 27 July 2015

A joint investigation by two independent organizations has found that ISIS has begun to use weapons filled with chemicals against Kurdish forces and civilians in both Iraq and Syria. ISIS is notorious for its skill in creating and adapting weapons and experts are concerned with the group’s access to chemical agents and its experiments with and the use of these agents as weapons.

A joint investigation by two independent organizations – Conflict Armament Research (CAR) and Sahan Research — has found that ISIS has begun to use weapons filled with chemicals against Kurdish forces and civilians in both Iraq and Syria. On three occasions last month, ISIS used projectile-delivered chemical agents in Hasakah province and against Kurdish positions near the Mosul Dam.

When CAR investigators reached the “scene of crime” near the Mosul Dam, they experienced severe headaches and nausea when encountering the pungent odor of a chlorine chemical agent, and saw a dark yellow liquid leaking from a projectile, according to James Bevan, the executive director of CAR.

CNN reports that the investigation was launched to ascertain that the device contained chlorine. The results showed that fragments of munitions contained chemical residue which still emitted a powerful odor which affected eyes and throat. The same thing happened with the residue of another rocket from Tel Brak.

Malik Ellahi, spokesman for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), noted that any use of toxic chemicals as weapons is prohibited by the Chemical Weapons convention. CAR’s James Bevan believes that the occasions of chemical weapon use the researchers identified may likely be a test run. He also added that ISIS forces are known to experiment with improvised munitions and chemicals which are at hand.

ISIS is notorious for its skill in creating and adapting weapons. Last month, photos depicting its improvised explosive device (IED) workshop in Fallujah were published. The latest assessments of experts suggest that it was a facility for creating different types of weapons.

There is a big distance between Mosul Dam and Tel Brak, but the similarity of the attacks in the two areas led analysts to think that different ISIS commands were sharing weapons and knowledge.

Moreover, there are precedents for ISIS using chlorine in a number of attacks earlier this year. Bombs filled with chlorine were used in a series of attacks near the town of Balad, in Eski Mosul, and Tikrit (see “Syrian Kurdish militia says ISIS used poison gas in attacks on militia fighters,” HSNW, 20 July 2015).

Also, during the fight against U.S. forces in 2006-07, Iraqi insurgents used crude chlorine-based weapons — usually bombs. Islamist insurgents also mixed chemicals with explosive in a suicide truck they exploded in Ramadi in 2007, killing twenty and injuring many more who required hospitalization for chemicals-related injuries.

There were many reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime (see “‘Strong possibility’ Assad may use chemical weapons on a large scale to protect regime: U.S. intelligence,” HSNW, 6 July 2015; and “Assad regime continues to employ chemical weapons,” HSNW, 22 April 2015). At the same time Bevan is concerned with ISIS’s access to chemical agents, and the group’s experiments with and use of these agents in chemical weapons.