The battle to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul, from the so called ‘Islamic State’ took a sharp turn when IS militants set fire to a sulphur plant.
Hundreds of people are being treated for effects of toxic gas as a result.
The US military reported that IS fighters had set fire to the plant a week ago as the retreated from the area owing to the offensive put on by the Iraqi Security forces and the coalition.
This adds to the attack by suicide bombers in other areas. IS militants have been driving explosive laden trucks and crashing them resulting in explosions as a form of attack.
The military forces were seen wearing protective gas masks as the wind started carrying the smoke towards them. The fire was set in the town of Qayyarah, from where the US military has been supporting the Iraqi forces in the fight against IS.
About a 1000 people are reportedly dealing with breathing problems according to the report by Reuters.
An official from the Iraqi security forces reported the death of 2 people along with the injuries of ‘many others’ due to fumes.
While the toxic gas from a burning plant cannot qualify for as a chemical weapon used directly in combat it does point to the concern that international experts have expressed regarding IS’s capability of using chemical weapons in the Mosul combat.
The Gas produced from the fire is known as Sulphur Dioxide. It is not only harmful for the environment, but also to humans as contact with the gas can cause irritation and inflammation in the human body.
This attack comes at the heels of the attack on the town of Kirkuk yesterday by an IS sleeper cell, which was recognised as a way of diverting the security forces. The situation has been brought under control by Kurdish Peshmerga guards and other guards present in the town.
The news of the toxic gas comes at the heels of reports that IS militants in the Mosul area were executing civilians who were trying to rise up against them, as well were trying to prevent people from escaping the area in order to use them as human shields. The UN expressed concern at the situation and is investigating the claims.