Red Cross says chemical weapons used in Mosul area

Red Cross says chemical weapons used in Mosul area
Iraqi families walk down a road as they flee Mosul on March 3, 2017, during an offensive by security forces to retake the western parts of the city from ISIL fighters. Aris Messinis / AFP / AP

BAGHDAD // ISIL has used chlorine gas in attacks in west Mosul, Iraqi police said on Friday. The Red Cross reported treating seven civilians for exposure to toxic chemical agents.
Brig Gen Wathaq Al Hamdani, the Nineveh provincial police chief, said ISIL targeted Al Jazair district in western Mosul with "Katyusha launchers with missiles carrying chlorine gas" at least twice in recent days. Five civilians were taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for asphyxiation, he said. 

    The Red Cross said it had seven patients at its Rozhawa hospital near Mosul who appeared to have been exposed to a toxic chemical agent. 
    "During the past two days, the hospital has admitted five children and two women showing clinical symptoms consistent with an exposure to a blistering chemical agent," said Robert Mardini, Middle East director for the International Committee of the Red Cross. 
    The reports of chemical attacks came as thousands more people fled the ISIL-held western half of Mosul and Iraqi special forces captured the Wadi Hajar district north of a military base near the city’s airport. 

      Brig Gen Haider Al Obeidi said clearing operations were continuing in the area and his forces were close to linking up with the militarised federal police forces who were pushing up along the western bank of the Tigris river. 
      Iraqi forces, including special operations forces and federal police units, launched an attack to dislodge ISIL from western Mosul nearly two weeks ago. Since the offensive began, more than 28,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, according to the United Nations.

        Most of the civilians who escaped Mosul in the past week have fled through the Mamun neighbourhood, west of Wadi Hajar, which is partially controlled by Iraq’s special forces.
        Major Saif Ali, who is stationed in Mamun, said huge crowds of civilians began pouring into the area from neighbouring districts just after midnight. 
        "In total 7,000 people fled through this area last night," he said. "We were up all night trying to control the crowds."

          Nahla Ahmed, 50, was among those who fled, walking more than five kilometres from her home in the Shuhada neighbourhood. 
          "All the families were hiding behind a wall," she said, explaining how they escaped an ISIL-held part of the city. "We gave the children Valium so they wouldn’t cry and [ISIL] wouldn’t catch us." 
          Muthana Younis also fled Mosul on Thursday night.
          "We waited until all the ISIL fighters left the streets," he said, his track suit covered in mud from the journey. 

            "There were mortars and we could hear gunfire," Younis said, describing how he walked for hours with his mother, father, brother and sister. 
            His younger siblings were so scared at times that he had to carry them, he said. 
            "But we had to flee, we had run out of food."


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