Chemical Weapons Still Sicken Iraqis 23 Years After Halabja Massacre

Eight Iraqis sickened as excavation of military plane yields unused chemical weapons

Over 23 years after the Iraqi Kurdistan town of Halabja was nearly eradicated in a large-scale attack, the chemical weapons used then are still harming new victims. Seven people were mildly poisoned as they worked to uncover the remains of an Iraqi military plane used during the attack. An eighth person, the district health minister, also suffered a rash while examining the workers.

The men had apparently damaged an unused chemical canister during the excavation. Tests are being run, but they may have been sickened by one or more of the chemicals used in the original attack. Among the known agents were VX, tabun and sarin. Mustard gas was dispersed too, and traces of cyanide were also found.

Last year, Saddam Hussein’s cousin, who was known as “Chemical Ali,” was executed for leading the Halabja Massacre. It left over 5,000 Kurds dead and more than 10,000 sickened or injured. It is often considered part of the greater al-Anfal Campaign, which was deemed “genocide” in a 2005 court ruling in The Hague.

At one time, the Hussein regime and the United States claimed that Iran was behind the Halabja attack, but authorities have since been able to prove otherwise. This find, however, is the first material evidence discovered that points conclusively towards Baghdad and not Tehran.