WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Islamic State militants used a chemical in an attack on Iraqi forces in Mosul over the weekend, and the agent has been sent for testing to try to identify it, the U.S. general commanding coalition ground forces in Iraq said on Wednesday.
Major General Joseph Martin, speaking to Pentagon reporters via videoconference, said Islamic State militants had lobbed chemical shells at Iraqi security forces in west Mosul but the attack had “had no impact.”
“The Iraqi security forces ... were in vicinity of one of the strikes,” Martin said. “They were taken back for the appropriate level of medical care. ... Nobody’s been impacted. Nobody’s died.”
“We’re not certain at this time exactly what the agent is,” he added. “We have sent it back for testing but we’re still waiting for the outcomes.”
Martin declined to say how many Iraqi security forces may have been exposed to the chemicals.
Officers in Iraq’s Federal Police told Reuters on Sunday that Islamic State militants had shelled government forces with chemical weapons agents in the Urouba and Bab Jadid districts on Saturday. The attack caused only minor wounds, the force said in a statement.
Martin declined to give details about the incident, including whether coalition military advisers had donned chemical weapons protection suits or whether an alert had gone around afterwards to notify troops of possible chemical attacks.
He also repeatedly declined to clearly state whether any U.S. or Australian military advisers were with the Iraqis at the time of the attack or had been treated for chemical exposure, as some media have reported.
“Our advisers ... are with Iraqi security forces at various command and control locations throughout Iraq,” he said.
“They share the same risk the Iraqis do,” he added. “When exposed, if exposed to chemical munitions ... we have the force protection equipment and we’ve got the training that all of our soldiers have done to protect themselves.”
Asked if he was acknowledging that U.S. or Australian advisers were with the Iraqi security forces at the time of the incident, Martin repeated a variation of his previous answer that advisers served with the Iraqis and shared the same risks.
Asked if he was saying no U.S. or Australian forces had been exposed to chemicals, Martin said: “We have not confirmed exposure at this time.”
Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Sandra Maler