BAGHDAD — The Kurdish government in Iraq said Saturday it has evidence examined by an independent laboratory confirming that the Islamic State group used chlorine gas as a chemical weapon against peshmerga fighters.
The allegation by the Kurdistan Region Security Council, stemming from a Jan. 23 suicide truck bomb attack in northern Iraq, did not immediately draw a reaction from the Islamic State group, which holds a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate. However, Iraqi officials and Kurds fighting in Syria have made similar allegations about the militants using the low-grade chemical weapons against them.
In a statement, the council said the alleged chemical attack took place on a road between Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, and the Syrian border, as peshmerga forces fought to seize a vital supply line used by the Sunni militants. It said its fighters later found "around 20 gas canisters" that had been loaded onto the truck involved in the attack.
The Kurds say samples of clothing and soil from the site were analyzed by an unnamed lab in an unnamed coalition partner nation, which found chlorine traces.
"The fact ISIS relies on such tactics demonstrates it has lost the initiative and is resorting to desperate measures," the Kurdish government said in the statement, using an alternate acronym for the Sunni militant group.
Chlorine, an industrial chemical, was first introduced as a chemical weapon at Ypres in World War I with disastrous effects as gas masks were not widely available at the time. While chlorine has many industrial and public uses, as a weapon it chokes victims to death.
In the Syrian civil war, a chlorine gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus in 2013 killed hundreds and nearly drove the U.S. to launch airstrikes against the government of embattled President Bashar Assad. The U.S. and Western allies accused Assad's government of being responsible for that attack, while Damascus blamed rebels.
There have been several allegations that the Islamic State group has used chlorine as well. In October, Iraqi officials claimed Islamic State militants may have used chlorine-filled cylinders during clashes in late September in the towns of Balad and Duluiya. Their disclosures came as reports from the Syrian border town of Kobani indicated that the extremist group added chlorine to an arsenal that already includes heavy weapons and tanks looted from captured military bases.
Insurgents have used chlorine gas in Iraq before. In May 2007, suicide bombers driving chlorine tankers struck three cities in Anbar province, killing two police officers and forcing about 350 Iraqi civilians and six U.S. troops to seek treatment for gas exposure. Those bombers belonged to al-Qaida in Iraq, which later became the Islamic State group.