Islamic State forces have attacked an Iraqi town at least twice this week with mortars containing an unidentified chemical, killing a three-year-old child and wounding or driving out hundreds of people, Iraqi officials said, according to media reports.
In the latest attack, the town of Taza, near the northern city of Kirkuk, was hit early Saturday, the Associated Press reports, quoting security and hospital officials.
“There is fear and panic among the women and children,” Adel Hussein, a local official tells the AP. “They’re calling for the central government to save them.”
Hussein said a German and an American forensics team arrived in the area to test for the presence of chemical agents.
The wounded are suffering from infected burns, suffocation and dehydration, said Helmi Hamdi, a nurse at the Taza hospital. He said eight people were transferred to Baghdad for treatment.
Officials in Taza said some 400 residents were exposed to the chemical in the first attack on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Most victims had minor respiratory problems and rashes, and at least four were hospitalized in Baghdad in critical condition, according Masroor Aswad, a member of Iraq’s human-rights commission, the newspaper reported. He said 3-year-old Fatima Samir died of kidney and lung failure.
The chemical was still being analyzed, but symptoms were consistent with exposure to mustard gas or chlorine, an Iraqi provincial forensic expert said, according to The Journal.
The newspaper said Taza’s officials and residents, who are primarily ethnic minority Shiite Turkmen, have pleaded with Iraq’s government for months to clear the area of militants. Tensions between Shiite militias and Kurdish forces fighting the extremists, however, have prevented a unified assault against the extremists, according to The Journal.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Doug Stanglin