Red Cross says seven treated for exposure to toxic agents near Mosul

Iraqi families flee Mosul on March 3, 2017, during an offensive to retake western parts of the city from ISIS militants.
Iraqi families flee Mosul on March 3, 2017, during an offensive to retake western parts of the city from ISIS militants.PHOTO: AFP

BAGHDAD (REUTERS) - Five children and two women are receiving treatment for exposure to chemical agents near the Iraqi city of Mosul, where Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is fighting US-backed Iraqi forces, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday (March 3).

The ICRC "condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons during fighting around the Iraqi city of Mosul", it said in a statement.

The agency's statement did not say which side used the chemical agents that caused blisters, redness in the eyes, irritation, vomiting, and coughing.

The United States has warned that ISIS could use weapons containing sulfur mustard agents to repel the offensive on the northern Iraqi city.

ICRC medical teams were supporting local medical teams treating the seven patients, who were admitted over the past two days to Rozhawa hospital in Erbil, east of Mosul, the organisation said.

ISIS used chemical weapons at least 52 times in Iraq and Syria and at least 19 times in the areas around Mosul between 2014 and November 2016, according to data collected by IHS Markit.

The ICRC had reinforced 13 medical centres in areas surrounding Mosul, some with capacity to treat gas attacks victims, ahead of the offensive that started in October.

Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris river on Feb 19.

Defeating ISIS in Mosul would crush the Iraqi wing of the caliphate declared by the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2014, over parts of Iraq and Syria.