US seeking to confirm if ISIL militants used chlorine gas

US seeking to confirm if ISIL militants used chlorine gas

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
US seeking to confirm if ISIL militants used chlorine gas

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint news conference with Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Oct. 24. AP Photo

Washington is seeking more information on reports that militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) used chlorine gas against Iraqi police officers last month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Oct. 24.

The top U.S. diplomat told reporters he could not confirm the reports, but said the United States took all such allegations "very seriously."       

The Washington Post reported Oct. 24 that 11 Iraqi police offices had been rushed to a hospital some 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Baghdad last month suffering from dizziness, vomiting and shortage of breath.

They were diagnosed as having been the victims of a poisoned gas attack allegedly unleashed by ISIL militants.

Iraqi forces said two other crude chlorine gas attacks have occurred since the summer, but the Post said the details were unclear. "No, I am not in a position to confirm [the report]," Kerry told reporters after meeting with his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se.

"We are seeking additional information in order to be able to determine whether or not we can confirm it," he added. "The use of any chemical weapons is an abhorrent act, it's against international law, and these recent allegations underscore the importance of the work that we are currently engaged in."       

But the top U.S. diplomat stressed the reports would not change the U.S. strategy as it builds a coalition to fight ISIL militants who have seized control of a large area of Iraq and Syria.

It might affect "tactical decisions" taken as part of the strategy, but the U.S. is "step-by-step bringing the coalition further down the road to being able to shore up the Iraqi army itself and to take measures against ISIL," Kerry said.