A three-year-old girl has been killed and 600 more people injured after Islamic State militants reportedly carried out two chemical attacks in northern Iraq, local authorities say. The Iraqi government vows that the attackers will pay for the atrocity.
The attacks, which forced hundreds to flee for safety, took place in the city of Kirkuk and the village Taza, according to an AP report citing Iraqi officials.
“What the Daesh [Arabic derogatory term for IS] terrorist gangs did in the city of Taza will not go unpunished. The perpetrators will pay dearly,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.
Hundreds of wounded are now suffering from chemical burns, suffocation, and dehydration, according to Helmi Hamdi, a Taza-based nurse, who added that eight people had even had to be sent to Baghdad for treatment.
“There is fear and panic among the women and children. They’re calling for the central government to save them,” Adel Hussein, a local official in Taza, said.
Hussein confirmed that German and US forensics teams had arrived in the area to test for the presence of chemical agents.
Sameer Wais, father of three-year-old Fatima Wais, who was killed in the attack, fights for the local Shiite forces. After learning of the tragedy, he ran home and took his daughter to a clinic and then a hospital in Kirkuk.
The girl seemed better the next day, and the family took her home. However, things took a terrible turn in the evening.
“By midnight she started to get worse. Her face puffed up and her eyes bulged. Then she turned black and pieces of her skin started to come off,” Sameer said, as cited by AP.
The girl died early in the morning. Hundreds of people reportedly attended Fatima’s funeral, some showing their discontent with the government and calling on authorities to protect the population from IS attacks.
Fatima’s father said that he was returning to the frontline as soon as possible.
“Now I will fight Daesh more than before, for Fatima.”
Last month, US special forces reportedly detained the head of an IS unit that attempted to develop chemical weapons. The US-led coalition also reportedly began conducting airstrikes and raids on chemical weapons infrastructure two months ago.
The chemicals used by IS so far include chlorine and a low-grade sulfur mustard.
On Friday, when asked how big of a hazard such substances present, US Army Colonel Steve Warren told journalists, “It’s a legitimate threat. It’s not a high threat. We’re not, frankly, losing too much sleep over it.”
The latest attacks come just a few days since Taza was shelled with “poisonous substances,” after which dozens suffered from choking and skin irritation.
Iraq isn’t the only country that Islamic State has attacked with chemical weapons recently. Syrian Kurdish fighters came under a chemical attack by jihadists on Tuesday.
Last month, some 30 Kurdish militia members were injured in a mortar attack that supposedly involved shells armed with chlorine.