Washington (CNN) – ISIS is suspected of firing a shell with mustard agent that landed at the Qayyara air base in Iraq Tuesday where US and Iraqi troops are operating, according to several US officials.
The shell was categorized by officials as either a rocket or artillery shell. After it landed on the base, just south of Mosul, US troops tested it and received an initial reading for a chemical agent they believe is mustard.
No US troops were hurt or have displayed symptoms of exposure to mustard agent.
One official said the agent had “low purity” and was “poorly weaponized.” A second official called it “ineffective.”
A US defense official said troops had gone out to look at the ordnance after it landed. Based on seeing what they thought was a suspect substance, two field tests were conducted.
The first test was positive and the second was negative, the official said. The substance is now being sent to a lab for further examination.
US troops involved in the incident went through decontamination showers as a precaution. No troops have shown any symptoms of exposure, such as skin blistering. CNN has reported on previous instances where ISIS has fired rounds with mustard agents in Iraq and Syria.
“I don’t know of a case like this where it was proximate to US forces like this before,” said one military official, noting that “potentially” the rocket round was “within hundreds of yards” of the US forces and “within the security perimeter” of the base.
The US officials said they “had expected” that ISIS might try use chemical weapons as US and Iraqi forces push towards Mosul in an effort to take the city back from ISIS. Several hundred US troops are using the base as a staging area for supporting Iraqi forces.
All of this has led the Pentagon to assess on a preliminary basis that it was ISIS that fired at the base, since the terror group has been making mustard agent for some time. Keep reading
Washington (AFP) – A rocket fired by Islamic State jihadists at US forces in Iraq may have carried a chemical agent, a US defense official said Wednesday.
No one was injured in Tuesday’s blast near an airfield by the northern town of Qayyarah and no one showed any immediate signs of exposure to the suspected mustard agent, the official said.
Several hundred US troops are working with Iraqi partners to strengthen the airfield ahead of a push on the IS stronghold of Mosul.
The defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an incoming round had exploded within the base perimeter during an “indirect fire” attack.
A small team of US troops later inspected the fragmented ordinance and found one bit with a suspicious, tar-like black oily substance that they tested in the field.
That initial test was positive for a “mustard agent.” A second test was negative, and a third sample has been sent to a proper laboratory for definitive analysis.
The official downplayed the seriousness of the incident, saying the shell would have been “militarily ineffective.”
“Our concern is not much greater after seeing this,” he said.
Still, the troops who handled the fragments went through a standard decontamination procedure.
US-led coalition warplanes last week destroyed a factory near Mosul suspected of being used by IS to make chemical weapons.
Observers have repeatedly alleged IS has used chemical weapons, and the Pentagon has confirmed the jihadists have deployed chlorine and sulfur mustard devices.
Iraqi security forces, backed by coalition air power, are in the final weeks of “shaping” operations ahead of an assault to recapture Mosul, which IS seized in 2014 and which remains the jihadists’ last main stronghold in Iraq.