CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports that an Iraqi unit with U.S. and Australian advisers was hit by an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with possibly some kind of chemical gas. Martin reported that twenty-five Iraqi soldiers required medical treatment after the attack. There were no reports of the US or Australian advisers being affected by the chemical agent. Martin further reported that it is believed that the chemical agent that was used is believed to be mustard gas.
Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told the Associated Press that six soldiers suffered breathing problems from Sunday’s attack and were treated in a field clinic. Military Officials have launched an investigation to determine what type of gas was used.
The gas attack on Sunday marked the second chemical attack of its kind in several days. Sunday’s attack occurred one day after an Iraqi military officer said ISIS militants launched a gas attack in the al-Abar neighborhood in western Mosul.
Iraqi army officials have stated that masks and other equipment have been distributed to their forces in case of any future gas attacks. After the first attack an army officer with the anti-terrorism forces said ISIS fired a rocket loaded with chlorine.
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are battling ISIS militants in the more densely populated western half of Mosul. Iraqi officials say more than half of western Mosul has been retaken. The extremists were driven out of the eastern half of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in January.
In a statement released by, Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, the commanding general in charge of land forces operating in Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq, he said that the attacks have had “no impact on Iraqi security forces, and no impact on our forces”.
Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin declined to comment on whether U.S. and Australian advisers were treated for exposure to the chemical agent, or whether they were present when the attack occurred. Martin did state that U.S. and Australian advisers share the same risks as Iraqi forces, because they are forward deployed with Iraqi troops.
Martin added that the chemical weapon attack was delivered by indirect fire and “Iraqi security forces were in the vicinity of one of the strikes”. The chemical attack by ISIS is the second of its kind over the last few days as Iraq forces struggle to liberate the denser western side of Mosul. The first attack occurred on Saturday in the al-Abar neighborhood of western Mosul. Seven Iraqi soldiers were injured in the attack, according to AP.
Officials in Baghdad have downplayed the threat and capability of ISIS’s use of chemical weapons. Martin stated that the attacks used “all low-grade chemicals because [ISIS] has a low production capability,”. Items exposed to the chemical attack have been sent back for further testing.
U.S. troops in Iraq already have all the appropriate equipment to operate in a contaminated environment and are capable of assisting Iraqi forces with further training in protecting their forces from chemical attacks, according to Martin.
These two chemical attacks are not the first known suspected chemical attacks carried out by ISIS militants in Iraq. Last March, Kurdish officials claimed Peshmerga forces were injured from a chlorine gas attack when an ISIS suicide bomber detonated a truck filled with gas canisters. Peshmerga forces near the scene of the incident complained of symptoms associated with chlorine gas, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness and weakness, according to Al Jazeera.
ISIS fighters are suspected of firing nearly 40 chlorine-filled rockets at the town of Taza, Iraq, in March, which injured nearly 800 people and killed one. In January, when Iraqi forces retook Mosul University, they found chemistry labs they believed had been turned into makeshift chemical weapons labs.
As Iraqi and coalition forces continue to push into western Mosul, fighting has become more fierce and the pace of operations has slowed to a crawl. Martin stated that it is likely that ISIS will use more chemical weapons on Iraqi and coalition forces as they become more desperate.