Islamic State Accused of Chlorine Use

December 2014

By Jefferson Morley

The Islamic State militant group used chlorine bombs in attacks in Iraq in September and October, according to news reports still under investigation by the U.S. government.

“We are aware of the reports but cannot confirm details and are seeking additional information,” a State Department official said in a Dec. 1 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

The Associated Press cited three Iraqi officials as saying that the Islamic State group used bombs with chlorine-filled cylinders during clashes in the towns of Dhuluiya and Balad, north of Baghdad, on Sept. 15. Approximately 40 soldiers and Shiite militiamen experienced difficulty breathing, according to the report.

An Iraqi commander in Anbar province told local media outlets quoted by the Iran Daily, which is published by Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency, that Islamic State militants “fired seven shells filled with chlorine” into a residential area on Oct. 22. No casualties were reported.

“We continue to take all allegations of [chemical weapons] use—and in particular these recent allegations regarding the use of chlorine as a chemical weapon—very seriously,” Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said in an Oct. 23 statement.

On Sept. 10, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported with “a high degree of confidence” that “chlorine, either pure or in mixture,” was used in a series of attacks in Syria last May. (See ACT, October 2014.) An OPCW fact-finding mission did not assign responsibility for the attacks, which the Syrian government and the rebel groups fighting to overthrow it, including the Islamic State, have blamed on each other. But OPCW investigators reported that “witnesses invariably connected the devices to helicopters flying overhead.” The rebels are not known to have helicopters.