The Islamic State group has launched two chemical attacks near the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing a 3-year-old girl, wounding 600 people and causing hundreds more to flee, Iraqi officials said Saturday.
Security and hospital officials say the latest attack took place early Saturday in the small town of Taza, which was also struck by a barrage of rockets carrying chemicals three days earlier.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi vowed to retaliate against the Islamic State group for the attack. The suspected mustard gas attack on Taza that left a three-year-old girl dead "will not go unpunished", the premier said in a statement.
“There is fear and panic among the women and children,” said Adel Hussein, a local official in Taza. “They are calling for the central government to save them.” Hussein said a German and an American forensics team arrived in the area to test for the presence of chemical agents.
The wounded are suffering from infected burns, suffocation and dehydration, said Helmi Hamdi, a nurse at the Taza hospital.
Talking to VOA, a Kirkuk based writer and political observer confirmed the attacks.
“It is unlikely that IS can launch a massive attack on Kirkuk, but they may continue such criminal activities and carry on random attacks,” said Mala Farman.
U.S. and Iraqi officials said U.S. special forces captured the head of the IS unit trying to develop chemical weapons in a raid last month in northern Iraq.
The U.S.-led coalition said the chemicals IS has used include chlorine and a low-grade sulfur mustard that is not very potent. “It is a legitimate threat. It is not a high threat. We are not, frankly, losing too much sleep over it,” U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters Friday.