Members of the UN investigation team take samples from the ground in the Damascus countryside of Zamalka, Syria. File photo
- ISIS infiltrates into Europe, sets up secret base in the Balkans
- Uzbek authorities arrest Qaeda recruits before heading to Syria
- Cholera outbreak spreads from Iraq to Syria, Kuwait and Bahrain: UNICEF
- ISIS militants conducted 65 suicide attacks in a month
- ISIS destroys houses of Shiite Kurds in Nineveh
- Turkey to continue war on Kurdish rebels, Erdogan says
- Russia will not insist on keeping Assad in power in Syria: Official
Chemical weapons experts have determined that mustard gas was used during fighting in Syria in August, according to a report by an international watchdog seen by Reuters.
The chemical – which causes severe delayed burns to the eyes, skin and lungs and is banned under international law – was used during a battle between ISIS insurgents and another rebel group, diplomatic sources said.
The confidential Oct. 29 report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a summary of which was shown to Reuters, concluded “with the utmost confidence that at least two people were exposed to sulphur mustard” in the town of Marea, north of Aleppo, on Aug. 21.
“It is very likely that the effects of sulphur mustard resulted in the death of a baby,” it said.
The report provides the first official confirmation of use of sulphur mustard, commonly known as mustard gas, in Syria since it agreed to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile, which included sulphur mustard.
It poses a dilemma for the U.N. Security Council because Syria is supposed to have completely surrendered the toxic chemicals 18 months ago. Their use violates U.N. Security Council resolutions and the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.
Also “it raises the major question of where the sulphur mustard came from”, one source said. “Either they (IS) gained the ability to make it themselves, or it may have come from an undeclared stockpile overtaken by IS. Both are worrying options.”
The finding, which will be formally presented to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon later this month, adds to a growing body of evidence that the Islamic State group has obtained, and is using, chemical weapons in both Iraq and Syria.
Kurdish authorities said earlier this month that Islamic State fighters fired mortar rounds containing mustard agent at Kurdish peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq during clashes in August.
They said blood samples taken from around 35 fighters who were exposed in the attack southwest of the regional capital of Erbil showed “signatures” of mustard gas.