US believes mustard gas used by ISIL in Syria, Iraq

US believes mustard gas used by ISIL in Syria, Iraq

US believes mustard gas used by ISIL in Syria, Iraq

Armoured vehicle from the Iraqi forces drive during military operations against jihadists from ISIL, in the eastern suburbs of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, 120 kilometers west of Baghdad, on February 1, 2016. AFP Photo

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants are believed to be responsible for sulfur mustard gas attacks in Syria and Iraq last year, the United States said on Feb. 17.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said ISIL insurgents were responsible for a mustard gas attack in the town of Marea on Aug. 21 "largely based on photographic evidence as well as Syrian opposition description of the event." 

A confidential Oct. 29 report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, concluded that at least two people were exposed to sulfur mustard in Marea, north of Aleppo, in August. 

Syria is supposed to have completely surrendered the toxic chemicals 18 months ago. Their use violates United Nations Security Council resolutions and the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. 

Toner also said that based on available information, the United States believed that ISIL was responsible for mustard gas attacks in Iraq. It is the first known use of chemical weapons in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. 

A source at the OPCW confirmed that laboratory tests were  positive for sulfur mustard after 35 Kurdish troopers were sickened on the battlefield in August. 

Sulfur mustard is a Class 1 chemical agent, which means it has very few uses outside chemical warfare. Used with lethal effectiveness in World War One, it causes severe delayed burns to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract.