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UN: Mosul chemical weapon use would be war crime

March 4, 2017

The UN has warned that the use of chemical weapons in Mosul would constitute a war crime and a violation of international humanitarian law. Twelve people are being treated for possible exposure to chemical weapons.

Irak Kampf um West-Mossul
Image: Reuters

Mosul: Evidence of chemical weapons

The UN's World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that 12 people had been exposed to chemical agents in the eastern part of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

All have been received since March 1 for treatment in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region, east of Mosul.

Tens of thousands of people have fled western Mosul since Iraqi forces launched an operation to retake it from the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) jihadi group on February 19, pushing into the area from the south.

Thousands flee as battle for Mosul rages on

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

Four of them are showing "severe signs associated with exposure to a blister agent."

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

The alleged attack occurred this week in eastern Mosul, an area declared fully liberated by Iraqi forces in January.

"This is horrible," Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said in a statement. "There is never justification - none whatsoever - for the use of chemical weapons."

IS has used chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria at least 52 times according to a report published in late 2016 by IHS conflict monitor, a London-based research and intelligence gathering group.

The report said that at least 19 of the 52 attacks took place in and around Mosul.

UN criticized

Meanwhile, an Iraqi minister has criticized UN efforts to aid civilians fleeing fighting in western Mosul.

"Unfortunately, there is a clear shortfall in the work of these (UN) organizations," Jassem Mohammed al-Jaff, minister for displacement and migration, said.

"The UN talks a lot but the efforts being made are little, despite the huge amount of money in their possession," he added.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led airstrikes and other assistance have since regained most of the territory they lost to the jihadis.

jbh/sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)