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Exposed: Victims of Daesh chemical attacks

Soldier wearing a gas mask. [Wikipedia]
Soldier wearing a gas mask. [Wikipedia]

The skin on five-year-old Doaa's legs, arms and neck is blackened and hard even weeks after the attack. She is still in severe pain and tries not to touch anything or move too much.

Doaa was playing in the courtyard when a rocket fired by Daesh landed and exploded in the neighbour's garden, emitting a toxic gas, her father Abdallah Sultan and other residents said.

Around a month after the blast, a strong burning smell still pervades the air and stings the nose. The wall next door is black and all the plants in a small vegetable patch have died. Part of the rocket, which the families avoid touching, is left on the ground. The rest has been removed by rescue workers.

"We don't know what the substance in the warhead was. All we know is that it made Doaa break out in blisters all over her body, and she's not got better," 33-year-old Sultan said.

She was a victim of what appears to have been the fourth chemical weapons attack launched by Daesh during September and October against civilians in the town of Qayyara in northern Iraq. Rights workers have so far documented at least three others.

The United Nations says Daesh is stockpiling ammonia and sulphur in civilian areas and fears it intends to carry out more chemical attacks as Iraqi forces, backed by US air power, battle the jihadists in an effort to drive them out of Mosul, their last major stronghold in Iraq.

The ultra-hardline group has shown its willingness to use toxic substances and to repeatedly target civilians, lashing out at populations in areas under its control as it has retreated towards Mosul.

The attacks on Qayyara, some 50 km (30 miles) south of Mosul, took place just before the current offensive began in earnest on 17 October Qayyara was recaptured from Islamic State in August but the militants were still in the area until last month.

Around the corner from where Doaa was hit, another chemical warhead landed inside a home in September, burrowing into the lawn.

 

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