The Islamic State group reportedly has launched a chemical weapons attack against a group of Kurdish fighters, raising disturbing questions about how the group obtained the chilling weapon.
A report in the Wall Street Journal cited a German Defense Ministry official who said a mustard gas attack took place on roughly 60 Kurdish fighters in an area 40 miles southwest of Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s ethnic Kurd region. A group of Western specialists is reportedly investigating the incident.
The use of chemical or biological weapons defies international norms and serves as “just another example of the kind of enemy we’re dealing with here,”
Indeed, the Islamic State group once again seized headlines earlier this week after reports of its brutal use of rape and sexual slavery to punish what it considers non-believers. A feature in The New York Times quoted a 12-year-old Iraqi Yazidi girl who claimed an Islamic State group fighter told her before raping her that the assault brought him “closer to God.”
The regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein notoriously deployed mustard gas – a weaponized chemical most commonly known for its use in World War I that causes severe skin blistering – against the Kurds in 1983, and the nerve gas Tabun beginning in 1985. Syrian President Bashar Assad admitted in recent years that his regime had developed advanced stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX and mustard gas. Neither regime is believed to have kept fastidious records of the size and scope of its chemical weapons program, which may have been more extensive than each of the leaders knew in detail.
A U.S. diplomatic effort led to the removal and destruction of the declared Syrian stockpiles, ending roughly this time last year. The completion of that task gave way almost immediately to concerns that some undeclared stockpiles may remain in Syria, and amid the rise of the Islamic State group, may fall into dangerous hands.