Iraq News

ISIL uses chemical weapons to hamper Iraqi advance

By Khalid al-Taie

An Iraqi tank fires at 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' positions in al-Qayyara. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

An Iraqi tank fires at 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' positions in al-Qayyara. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

The "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) launched poison gas attacks on Iraqi forces in an attempt to hinder their advance towards Mosul, the group's last stronghold in Iraq, Ninawa provincial officials told Diyaruna.

“On August 22nd, [ISIL] launched eight mortars and Katyusha rockets carrying poisonous gas on our troops and civilians in al-Awsaja village in al-Qayyara district," said Ninawa Operations Commander Maj. Gen. Najim al-Jabouri.

“The terrorists have lost any capacity to confront our forces and now they are desperately trying to halt the advance of our soldiers towards Mosul," he said.

Al-Jabouri said the attack did not result in any military or civilian casualties and had limited impact, as ISIL does not have sufficient technology to manufacture high impact chemical weapons.

The group generally uses poisonous gases such as chlorine and sulphur, "which they mix in a rudimentary way to use in rocket propelled grenades (RPGs)", he said, adding that these sorts of weapons have a limited geographical reach.

“This is not the first time that ISIL has used these types of weapons," he said, noting that in March, ISIL launched chemical attacks against the village of Tazeh in Kirkuk province that resulted in civilian deaths.

“Our troops now have the expertise to identify these attacks and take the necessary precautions to avoid their impact," al-Jabouri said.

Iraqi forces are in full control of al-Qayyara, he said, which had been an area of great strategic importance to ISIL in terms of mobilising its fighters and extracting natural resources for its financial gain.

“Mosul is now just a stone’s throw away, and our troops are advancing based on reliable plans and calculated estimates, which take into consideration the humanitarian aspect, since we do not want to endanger the lives of civilians," he said.

Indications of ISIL's defeat

ISIL’s chemical attack on al-Awsaja is “clear evidence of the terrorists’ defeat and destruction”, said Ninawa provincial council member Daoud Jundi, describing attacks using banned weapons as "a last resort for ISIL".

Security forces have "now been able to achieve huge victories in Ninawa province, the latest of which was liberating al-Qayyara, the southern gateway to Mosul", he told Diyaruna.

Over the past two years, ISIL has been known to have launched dozens of chlorine attacks on the Kurdish forces west of Mosul, he said.

The group also has targeted Peshmerga forces in the town of Makhmour to the east of Mosul, he said, adding that "such attacks will not weaken the resolve of our forces to defeat terrorism".

Ninawa provincial council member Abdul Rahman al-Wakaa stressed the importance of “taking all the necessary precautions concerning the terrorists’ plans”.

“ISIL has no humanitarian or moral scruples and will not hesitate to use all sorts of war methods, even if they are forbidden, to achieve its goals and to influence the outcome of the battles," he told Diyaruna.

“As fighting draws closer to Mosul, we might notice heightened activity from terrorists by spreading rumours and false news in an attempt to bring down the morale of our soldiers and to terrorise the local population," he added.

“We have to take into account all the enemy’s attempts and barbaric tactics so we can thwart them, as final victory looms on the horizon," al-Wakaa said.

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