Chemical weapons in Syria (Image source)
Chemical weapons experts in the middle east have confirmed that mustard gas was used in a Syrian town where Islamic State insurgents were battling another group of anti - Assad rebels, according to a report by an international watchdog. Previous incidents in which the use of illegal weapons such as toxic gas have been unofficialy attributed to the Assad regime by people linked to the Obama administration in Washington.
However a confidential report published on October 29 by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a summary of which was leaked to Reuters, concluded "with the utmost confidence that at least two people were exposed to sulfur mustard" in the town of Marea, north of Syria's largest city, Aleppo, on Aug. 21.
"It is very likely that sulfur mustard caused the death of a baby," the report said. The findings provide the first official confirmation of use of mustard gas in Syria during the current hostilities.
The report did not mention Islamic State or Al Nusra as the responsible party, as the fact-finding mission was not mandated to assign blame. Diplomatic sources said the chemical had been used in the clashes between Islamic State and another rebel group taking place in the town at the time.
Confirmation of the use of mustard gas adds to a growing body of evidence that the Islamic State group and other rebel groups have obtained, and are using, chemical weapons in both Iraq and Syria.
Kurdish authorities earlier this month accused Islamic State's forces of firing 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.
A team of OPCW experts has been sent to Iraq to confirm the findings and is expected to obtain its own samples later this month, one diplomat said.