Kurdish Peshmerga Forces have described how they face attacks from chemical weapons as they seek to push back ISIL forces on the road to retake Mosul.
The fighters are confronted by shells and even landmines packed with noxious substances as they advance, they told Euronews reporter Mohamed Shaikhibrahim.
Chemical weapons were used extensively in the First World War but banned shortly afterwards. However, ISILis reported to have been manufacturing and deploying poisons such as mustard gas which cause blisters to the skin and the insides of the lungs.
“In the presence of international experts we have recorded the fact this site was bombed with chemical weapons and poisonous gases on more than four occasions,” Brigadier Mohammed Assad of the Peshmerga Forces said.
“The worst of these attacks was last year by shells with deadly chemicals in them. We also found landmines with chemicals which we dismantled preventing hundreds of soldiers from being killed.”
The advancing Kurdish fighters have become familiar with a range of ISIL battle tactics, including night-time assaults, the use of tunnels to reposition reinforcement and blanket deployment of booby traps.
Euronews’ reporter witnessed the troops in action at a military camp just 1.5 kilometres from a stronghold of the jihadist fighters.
The location, known as “Sultan Abdullah Barrack”, is close to the village of Sultan Abdullah, which lies south-east of Mosul. It is one of a cluster of defensive positions which have to be cleared of the so-called Islamic State before the offensive on the city can begin.
This is one of the most important military fronts for the Peshmerga but so far the fighters have been frustrated in their efforts to liberate the village.
The battles are mostly at night. In daylight the Peshmerga forces monitor from afar, opening fire on any suspicious movements among the buildings now emptied of civilians.
The Peshmerga troops have been able to retake many of the villages surrounding Mosul. Their targets now are to keep control of the borders and provide back up for the Iraqi troops advancing on the city.
Mohammed Shaikhibrahim reported: “Sultan Abdullah is considered one of the main military barracks from which to attack and this is the reason why so many of the Peshmerga elite forces are stationed here. It is also a sensitive transit point between Kirkuk, Erbil and Mosul cities.”