World News

Militants attack Iraqi, U.S. forces with chlorine bombs

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Insurgents with two chlorine truck bombs attacked a local government building in Falluja in western Iraq on Wednesday, the latest in a string of attacks using the poisonous gas, the U.S. military said.

Iraqi soldiers secure the scene of a car bomb attack in Baghdad, March 28, 2007. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

It said 15 Iraqi and U.S. soldiers were wounded in the blasts and many more suffered chlorine poisoning.

“Numerous Iraqi soldiers and policemen are being treated for symptoms such as labored breathing, nausea, skin irritation and vomiting that are synonymous with chlorine inhalation,” a U.S. statement said.

It said no Iraqi or U.S. forces were killed in what it called a “complex attack” using mortars and small arms as well as the truck bombs.

Chlorine gas was widely used in World War One but its use in insurgent attacks in Iraq has particular resonance there. Saddam Hussein attacked Kurdish areas with chemical weapons in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.

Earlier Iraqi police said two car bombs exploded near an Iraqi checkpoint outside a U.S. military base in Falluja, killing eight Iraqi soldiers.

U.S. spokesman Lieutenant Shawn Mercer said the U.S. statement referred to the same incident but he could not confirm the deaths of the Iraqi policemen.

“Iraqi police identified the first suicide attacker and fired on the truck, causing it to detonate before reaching the compound,” the U.S. statement said.

“Iraqi Army soldiers spotted the second suicide truck approaching the gate and engaged it with small arms fire, causing it to also detonate near the entrance of the compound.”

U.S. commanders and the Iraqi government have blamed al Qaeda militants for several recent attacks using chlorine gas in Anbar, a restive mainly Sunni Arab province in western Iraq.

“The extent of the injuries from the inhalation is varied. It was very light to more severe. As far as we know none life-threatening at this point,” Mercer said.

On March 17, insurgents deployed three chlorine car bombs on one day near Falluja and Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.

Chlorine, which is turned from solid or liquid form to a gas by the blast, causes severe burns when inhaled and can cause death.

The U.S. military said it discovered an al Qaeda car bomb factory last month near Falluja with chlorine tanks..