WHO says preparations on for possible chemical attack in Mosul

Baghdad, October 27

The UN’s public health agency said today it has trained 90 Iraqi medics in ‘mass casualty management,’ with a special focus on chemical attacks, as part of its preparations for Iraq’s operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group.

The extremist group, which has ruled Iraq’s second largest city for more than two years, is believed to have crude chemical weapons capabilities, and Iraqi forces say they are prepared to encounter them on the battlefield.

The World Health Organisation said yesterday that of the 700,000 people expected to flee Mosul, some 200,000 will require emergency health services, including more than 90,000 children needing vaccinations and 8,000 pregnant women.

The operation to retake Mosul began October 17 and is expected to take weeks, if not months.

The fighting has not yet reached the city itself, which is home to more than a million people.

Iraq’s special forces said today they have completed their objectives east of Mosul and are waiting on other forces to advance from the south in order to further isolate the city before moving in.

“The operation has not been stopped and is proceeding as planned,” Brigadier General Haider Fadhil said.

Iraqi forces have been battling IS militants around the town of Shura, 40 kilometres south of Mosul, in recent days.

Fighting units are approaching the city from the north, east and south, and the US-led coalition is carrying out airstrikes and providing ground support.