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US Probes Reports of IS Chlorine Gas Attacks

File - Military truck damaged in clashes between Islamic State fighters and Iraqi security forces at a military base north of Baghdad.

Iraqi officials and U.S. media reports say Islamic State militants have used homemade chlorine gas bombs in their fight against Iraqi security forces near Baghdad.

Also, a doctor who treated Kurdish fighters in the Syrian border town of Kobani near Turkey told VOA that he has treated about 20 people for what appear to be symptoms of chlorine gas poisoning.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said chlorine by itself is not banned under the Syrian agreement to eliminate its chemical arsenal. But certain combinations of chlorine, he said, are illegal.

“When mixed in certain ways and used in certain ways, it can become a chemical weapon that is prohibited under the chemical weapons agreement,” he said.

Kerry said the use of chemical weapons would not prompt the U.S.-led coalition to change its strategy against the Islamic State militants.

“It obviously can affect tactical decisions within that strategy, but our fundamental strategy remains absolutely clear,” he said.

At the Pentagon, Rear Admiral John Kirby said the reports that Islamic militants had chemical weapons, if true, were troubling.

“Should these allegations prove true, obviously it deepens the concern on our part for the safety of our troops, of course," he said. "But I don’t have anything firm to indicate - I don’t have any indications as we speak here today that those reports are accurate.”

Kirby said any investigation of chemical weapons use would fall to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an intergovernmental group at The Hague, Netherlands.

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