At least 52 incidences in which Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) jihadists carried out attacks on the battlefield using chemical weapons took place since 2014, according to a new analysis.
IHS Conflict Monitor collected the figures based on an analysis of local news reports, social media and Islamic State propaganda.
Over a third of those attacks occurred in the area surrounding Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, home to over two-million people at the time of the ISIS conquest of the city.
In mid-October, U.S. officials said they expected ISIS to use chemical weapons in their defense of Mosul.
“The coalition is concerned about ISIL’s use of chemical weapons,” Col. John Dorrian, a military spokesman in Iraq, told The New York Times on Monday. “ISIL has used them in Iraq and Syria in the past, and we expect them to continue employing these types of weapons.”
Chemicals used include sulphur mustard and chlorine gas, both internationally-banned chemical weapons that indiscriminately target civilians.
American military analysts suspect ISIS makes chemical weapons rather than buying them. Both former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had chemical weapons production facilities at one stage and it is very possible that ISIS could have captured equipment and knowledge from a pre-existing facility.
In 2011, Syrian President Assad fired chemical weapons on his own people, violating a “red-line” which U.S. President Barack Obama had put in place.
"We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” Obama said in 2012.
One of the considerations was that should chemical weapons be used by one actor in the conflict, others would start to use them as well. This was later a concern after Russia jointly with the U.S. oversaw the removal and disposal of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.
Critics said it was likely Assad had kept some chemical weapons back and it was possible they could fall into the hands of terrorists.
A U.N. investigation later found Assad’s forces used chemical weapons after they had supposedly been destroyed.
Some of Assad’s chemical weapons could have fallen into the hands of the Islamic State.
Using such indiscriminate and cruel weapons shows the extent to which ISIS has no regard for civilian lives and will stop at nothing in its attempt to brutally impose and enforce its rule.
For more information about the Islamic State and its war crimes, please see Clarion Project’s Special Report: The Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL).