Women and children treated for potential chemical weapons exposure in Mosul

‘This is horrible... If the alleged use of chemical weapons is confirmed, this is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime’

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Twelve people, including women and children, are being treated for possible exposure to chemical weapons agents in Mosul, where Isis is fighting off an offensive by US-backed Iraqi forces, the United Nations has said.

The UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) has activated with partners and local health authorities “an emergency response plan to safely treat men, women and children who may be exposed to the highly toxic chemical,” the agency said in a statement.

It said all 12 patients had been received since 1 March for treatment, which they are undergoing in Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, east of Mosul.

Four of them are showing “severe signs associated with exposure to a blister agent”. The patients were exposed to the chemical agents in the eastern side of Mosul.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that five children and two women were receiving treatment for exposure to chemical agents.

The ICRC statement did not say which side used the chemical agents, which caused blisters, redness in the eyes, irritation, vomiting and coughing.

The alleged attack occurred this week in eastern Mosul, an area declared fully liberated by Iraqi forces in January. The attack hit a neighborhood along the Tigris River — which roughly divides the city in two. 

Doctors in an urgent care hospital in Irbil say they began receiving patients showing symptoms of chemical weapons exposure on Thursday. 

“The mortar hit our house, right inside the living room where we were sitting,” said Nazim Hamid, whose children had burns to their faces, arms and legs. The family was being treated in the Irbil hospital. 

“There was a very bad smell, it was some kind of gas,” he said. “My kids were affected, some of them were burned and some of them had difficulty breathing.” 

Hussein Qader, the deputy director of the hospital, said all 10 patients admitted for exposure are in stable condition and will be discharged in the coming days. 

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, called for an investigation.

“This is horrible. If the alleged use of chemical weapons is confirmed, this is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime, regardless of who the targets or the victims of the attacks are,” she said in a statement.

Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris river last month. The eastern side remains within reach of the militants’ rockets and mortar shells.

Defeating Isis in Mosul would crush the Iraqi wing of the caliphate declared by the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2014, over parts of Iraq and Syria.

Reuters

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