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Islamic State 'have limitless amount of chemical weapons'

Smoke rises from a detonated chlorine bomb in Iraq. Credit: Reuters

The so-called Islamic State has repeatedly shown its ability to strike well outside the territory it controls.

An attack on an industrial plant near Baghdad yesterday was spectacular and deadly.

But it is their propensity to use chemical weapons that has caused most alarm among those fighting them.

The scene of a bomb attack in Baghdad. Credit: Reuters

For the Kurds the spectre of gas attacks is especially potent – after thousands were gassed by Saddam Hussein in Halabja in 1988.

Now the Kurds are facing a constant barrage of missiles – wondering which ones contain more than just explosives.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon is an expert of chemical weapons and works for a company that makes gas masks.

He has just returned from Iraq, handing out masks and training the Kurdish fighters in how to use them.

While he was there, he saw first-hand the aftermath of chlorine attacks.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon handed gas masks out to Kurdish fighters in Iraq. Credit: ITV News

IS, over the last two years, seem to be developing a chemical weapons capability.

In the last few months, the Peshmerga say they have been attacked over 20 times by Islamic State using mustard agent, which they appear to be making themselves, and chlorine, from probably the largest chlorine factory in the Middle East in Mosul.

So they have almost limitless amounts of this stuff and they appear to be very keen to use it.

Chemical weapons are the ultimate terror weapon even though bullets and bombs cause more damage.

– Chemical weapon expert Hamish de Bretton-Gordon
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said he was looking at what protective equipment Britain could provide. Credit: ITV News

His call for more protective equipment for the Pershmerga hasn’t fallen on deaf ears.

The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon is considering helping them acquire more gas masks.

At present they only have a few hundred for a frontline force of 44,000.

We’re looking already at what more we can do in providing equipment.

We’ve already provided a lot of equipment and a lot of ammunition to the Kurds and we’re looking again now at another list they’ve given us of additional supplies that we could provide.

– Defence Secretary Michael Fallon

But the Americans are warning the fight to liberate Mosul won’t be quick -even if the Pershmerga are better equipped.

They are unlikely to retake the mainly Arab city – that onerous duty is likely to fall to the Iraqi army.

And it is a long way from being willing and able to enter the city, with the heavy death toll that may entail.