A “confidential report” by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has concluded that mustard gas was used in the Syrian town of Marea, in the Aleppo province, on August 21. Islamic State or ISIS fighters were said to have engaged with Kurdish peshmerga fighters and attacked with weapons containing mustard agent.
According to ARA News, Reuters was shown a copy of a summary of the report, which determined “with the utmost confidence that at least two people were exposed to sulphur mustard.” The mustard deployed during the August attack is also thought to be responsible for the death of a baby.
The use of chemical weapons in warfare was almost universally outlawed by the Geneva Convention in 1925, after the world was witness to the horrific effects of mustard gas during World War I. Despite this, mustard gas has reportedly been used several times since the ratification of the treaty.
A second treaty, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, outlawed not only the use of chemical weapons like mustard gas, but the production and stockpiling of them as well, and came into effect in 1997.
Syria was said to have surrendered its entire mustard gas stockpile in early 2014. One thousand three hundred tons of chemical weapons were reported to have been handed over to the OPCW in 2014. At the time, doubts as to whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would really hand over the country’s entire stockpile lingered.
That the horrific agent was found to be in use as recently as August is said to create a “dilemma” for the U.N. Security Council. The country had agreed to give up stockpiles of chemical weapons in a deal with the United States and Russia over the 2013 sarin gas attack on civilians in an agricultural belt around Damascus. Chlorine has reportedly been used in Syrian warfare in recent years as well.
ARA News quoted a source who questioned where ISIS was able to obtain mustard gas, and wondered if the Islamic State has the ability to produce the weapon itself or if it has taken control of a stockpile. Both situations are described as being “worrying.” Evidence that ISIS has access to and is using chemical weapons is said to be “growing.”
During the August clash between ISIS fighters and Kurdish peshmerga, the jihadi group was reported to have fired “mortar rounds containing mustard agent.” Members of the Kurdish group submitted blood tests in the wake of the attack, which showed “signatures” of mustard. A team from the OPCW has reportedly been sent to Iraq and is expected to collect samples of the mustard agent and conduct an independent investigation.
Mustard agent is said to have no other use than chemical warfare, and as such it is designated as a Schedule 1 substance.
A separate OPCW delegation was reportedly unable to confirm attacks with chemical weapons on Syrian government forces. The group was said to state that it “cannot confidently determine whether or not a chemical was used as a weapon.”
[Feature Screenshot via Breaking News/YouTube]