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BAGHDAD, March 4 Twelve people, including women
and children, are being treated for possible exposure to
chemical weapons agents in Mosul, where Islamic State is
fighting off an offensive by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces, the
United Nations said on Saturday.
The U.N.'s World Health Organization has activated with
partners and local health authorities "an emergency response
plan to safely treat men, women and children who may be exposed
to the highly toxic chemical," the agency said in a statement.
It said all 12 patients had been received since March 1 for
treatment which they are undergoing in Erbil, the capital of
Iraq's Kurdish region, east of Mosul.
Four of them are showing "severe signs associated with
exposure to a blister agent". The patients were exposed to the
chemical agents in the eastern side of Mosul.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on
Friday that five children and two women were receiving treatment
for exposure to chemical agents.
The ICRC statement did not say which side used the chemical
agents that caused blisters, redness in the eyes, irritation,
vomiting and coughing.
Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January
after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the
districts that lie west of the Tigris river on Feb. 19. The
eastern side remains within reach of the militants' rockets and
Defeating Islamic State in Mosul would crush the Iraqi wing
of the caliphate declared by the group's leader, Abu Bakr
al-Baghdadi, in 2014, over parts of Iraq and Syria.
The U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande,
called for an investigation.
"This is horrible. If the alleged use of chemical weapons is
confirmed, this is a serious violation of international
humanitarian law and a war crime, regardless of who the targets
or the victims of the attacks are," she said in a statement.
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Catherine Evans)