FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Two suicide bombings in involving toxic chlorine gas made 350 people ill in Falluja on Friday, the U.S. military said on Saturday, and another smaller bomb attack near Ramadi also released chlorine gas.
Hospital sources said earlier eight people were killed and dozens were became ill after chlorine gas was released in the two bombings in Falluja, in the western province of Anbar.
The attacks appeared to mark a stepped-up campaign by insurgents to use unconventional weapons, after two bombings involving chlorine killed eight people earlier this year.
The U.S. military said they discovered an al Qaeda car bomb factory last month near Falluja that was constructing bombs with chlorine. The gas causes severe burns when breathed in and can cause death.
Friday’s two bombs in Falluja occurred within the space of 40 minutes in the early evening and both involved suicide bombers driving dumper trucks.
In the first, near the town of Amiriya, two Iraqi police were killed and up to 100 Iraqis showed signs of chlorine exposure, with symptoms ranging from minor skin and lung irritation to vomiting, the U.S. statement said.
Soon afterwards a suicide bomber detonated a dumper truck containing a 200-gallon (900-liter) chlorine tank rigged with explosives around 5 km (3 miles) south of Falluja.
“Coalition Forces responded to the attack and found approximately 250 local civilians suffering from symptoms related to chlorine exposure,” the U.S. statement said.
“Of those affected by the attack, four adults and seven children were evacuated to Coalition medical facilities for further treatment,” it said.
Earlier on Friday, another smaller bomb using chlorine detonated at a checkpoint northeast of Ramadi, wounding one U.S. soldier and one Iraqi civilian.
“Suicide car bombers have used chlorine against Iraqis in Al Anbar a total of five times since January 28,” the statement said.
Chlorine gas was used as a weapon in World War One but its use in guerrilla attacks in Iraq has particular resonance for Iraqis. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons on Kurdish areas in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.
Hospital sources said one of the Falluja attacks targeted the entrance to a large housing complex south of Falluja, killing six people including policemen, while the second bomber targeted a tribal leader opposed to al Qaeda.