Major General Joseph Martin stated that the campaign to liberate Mosul was the “hardest urban combat in recent history.” It was “hard” because of the networks of tunnels, the booby traps, vehicles packed with explosives that suddenly appeared from out of nowhere. And that was not the only hazard: ISIS was experimenting with mustard gas.
Whether or not it was a “hard” as the fight for Fallujah is probably a matter of debate. But it took over 3 months to accomplish the liberation.
Since the operation began in October, 5,000 civilians and 1,600 Iraqi troops were killed. But the effort to liberate the city from ISIS control was fraught with danger.
Stars and Stripes reported,
Islamic State fighters, who occupied Mosul more than two years ago, have had ample time to turn it into a deadly urban battlefield. Besides intricately prepared defensive positions and tunnel networks, advancing Iraqi forces have had to contend with hundreds of armored cars and trucks bearing improvised explosive devices. These usually emerge suddenly from nearby garages and other concealed locations, leaving little time for troops to react with airstrikes or shoulder-launched rockets.
Add to that the finding of a cache of around a dozen Russian missiles near a tank of what was identified as sulphur mustard (mustard gas) in Mosul- an indication that ISIS has been experimenting with weaponizing the substance.
This comes as no surprise to American officials, who have repeatedly warned that ISIS has been attempting to create chemical weapons. Mustard gas was deployed in an area where US troops were deployed back in September when a shell containing the chemical substance landed near the Qayyara Airbase in Iraq.
The Peshmerga had asked the UK for the equipment to protect their troops against Mustard gas back in October.
The CDC reported symptoms of Mustard Gas exposure:
Sulfur mustard (military designation HD or H) is a blister agent (vesicant) that causes severe, delayed burns to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. Sulfur mustard damages cells within minutes of contact; however, the onset of pain and other health effects is delayed until hours after exposure. Large exposures to sulfur mustard may be fatal. Sulfur mustard is also an alkylating agent that damages the cells within the bone marrow that are necessary for making blood cells; this affects the body’s immune system. Finally, sulfur mustard also affects a part of the nervous system responsible for everyday bodily function, causing “cholinergic toxicity,” marked by excessive saliva, tears and urine; gastrointestinal (GI) cramping and diarrhea; vomiting (emesis); and constricted or pinpoint pupils (miosis). Sulfur mustard has been used as a chemical warfare agent to cause delayed casualties. It has an odor of garlic, onion, horseradish, or mustard. However, odor is not a reliable indicator of sulfur mustard and should not be depended on to warn of sulfur mustard exposure.