28 February 2016
Islamic State (IS) militants targeted the war-ravaged city of Sinjar (Shengal) with nearly 20 chemical-laden rockets on Thursday and at least ten on Friday, leaving over 100 civilians and Peshmerga fighters injured, said a volunteer medic from the Free Burma Rangers who witnessed the attacks.
For the second time in less than two weeks, Islamic State militants launched a chemical attack on the Yazidi (Ezidi)-majority city. On Thursday, IS fired chemical rockets at Peshmerga front lines as well as into the city itself.
On Friday, the jihadists continued their attack with hand-made rockets, bombarding the area with ten chlorine-filled rockets, deliberately targeting both Peshmerga and civilians, the latter of whom only recently returned to their homes.
David Eubank, a foreign volunteer medic from the Free Burma Rangers told K24 that over 100 civilians and Peshmerga have become exposed to the chemical substances from both attacks. Most of the casualties, however, are Peshmerga forces who are currently defending the city.
Some of the symptoms of those exposed include breathing difficulty, debilitating headaches, nausea, and vomiting, Eubank reported.
"We are not sure if it is chlorine or mustard. Some of it looks like it should be mustard gas. But we don’t have a testing kit. We need someone to come here and test. Yesterday’s [Thursday] rockets were all the same [that included] a black chemical substance,” Eubank added.
Jabbar Yawar, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Peshmerga, told Reuters on Friday that the substance used in Thursday’s attack was likely a chlorine agent banned under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.
On February 11, IS launched a chemical attack along the Domiz front lines, about 7 kilometers (4 miles) south of Shengal. According to medical reports on the ground, nearly 175 Peshmerga were exposed to chemical agents in that attack. IS fired chemicals using 36 mortars, mainly containing “a yellow and brown powder” according to an earlier report from Eubank.
Farhan Shivan, a 24-year-old Ezidi driver and a volunteer Peshmerga based in Shengal described the chemicals used in February 11 attack as “a sticky oil-like substance that would make you faint or cough very harshly.”
Jamal Simo, 26, is an Ezidi shop owner from Shengal and reported, “Although the town is now cleared of IS, we still don’t feel safe to come back to our homes. Da’esh (IS) tries to kill us in every way possible. We need international assistance alongside Peshmerga to help secure our homes.”
Recently US intelligence confirmed the use of chemicals by IS extremists against Peshmerga. Russia Today reported on Thursday that an Iraqi militia recently seized a IS chemical weapons store near Ramadi containing “vast deposits of highly toxic agents used by Islamic State terrorists to arm mortar shells and rockets.”
Reporting by Ehsan Mamakani
Editing by Ava Homa and Benjamin Kweskin