Red Cross, IOM brace for chemical weapons use in Mosul

Iraqi forces backed by an international coalition are making gains in their advance on the city, the last major urban centre in Iraq under the ISIL group's control.

Red Cross, IOM brace for chemical weapons use in Mosul

World Bulletin / News Desk

International aid groups including the Red Cross said Tuesday they were preparing for the possible use of chemical weapons in the battle for the Iraq city of Mosul.

There have been warnings the battle to take Mosul will be a long, bloody affair, with the jihadists expected to fight back with hit-and-run tactics, snipers, booby traps and and trenches.

Robert Mardini of the International Committee of the Red Cross's (ICRC) Near and Middle East division warned: "We cannot exclude the use... of chemical weapons."

He told reporters the ICRC was preparing by training healthcare workers and providing equipment to health facilities around Mosul "that would be able to absorb the cases of people contaminated and offer decontamination."

"As we speak, we have a team in Iraq liaising with the health authorities and working hand-in-hand with health personnel in Iraq in order to develop this response capacity," he said.

Thomas Lothar Weiss, who heads the International Organization for Migration's Iraq mission, also voiced fears that chemical weapons might be used in Mosul, pointing to recent reports ISIL had used them nearby against Kurdish peshmerga forces.

"We also fear, and there has been some evidence that ISIL might be using chemical weapons," he told the Geneva news conference, via phone link from Baghdad, using another acronym for ISIL.

He acknowledged that the organisation had "started to procure, within the limits of our very limited funding, ... gas masks."

The start of the assault on Monday has raised deep concerns for hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in Iraq's second-largest city, with aid groups warning of a massive humanitarian crisis.

The UN fears that up to a million people could be forced from their homes by the fighting, with some 200,000 fleeing during the first weeks of the assault alone.

Last Mod: 18 Ekim 2016, 17:07
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