Chlorine attacks sicken hundreds

Published March 18, 2007

BAGHDAD - Three suicide bombers driving trucks rigged with tanks of toxic chlorine gas struck targets Friday in heavily Sunni Anbar province, including the office of a Sunni tribal leader opposed to al-Qaida. The attacks killed at least two people and sickened 350 Iraqi civilians and six U.S. troops, the U.S. military said Saturday.

There is a mounting power struggle between insurgents and the growing number of Sunnis who oppose them in Anbar, the center of the Sunni insurgency, which stretches from Baghdad to the borders with Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The Anbar assaults came three days after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, traveled there to reach out to Sunni clan chiefs in a bid to undermine tribal support for the insurgency.

The violence started about 4:11 p.m. Friday when a driver detonated explosives in a pickup carrying chlorine at a checkpoint northeast of the provincial capital of Ramadi, wounding one U.S. service member and one Iraqi civilian, the military said in a statement.

Two hours later, a dump truck exploded in Amiriyah, south of Fallujah, killing two police officers and leaving as many as 100 residents with symptoms of chlorine exposure ranging from minor skin and lung irritations to vomiting, the military said. Iraqi authorities said at least six people were killed and dozens wounded when the truck blew up in a line of cars waiting at a checkpoint. The U.S. did not confirm the Iraqi report.

Another suicide bomber detonated a dump truck containing a 200-gallon chlorine tank rigged with explosives at 7:13 p.m. 3 miles south of Fallujah in the Albu Issa tribal region, the military said. U.S. forces found about 250 local civilians suffering from symptoms related to chlorine exposure. Police said the bomb was targeting the reception center of a tribal sheik who has denounced al-Qaida.

A U.S. soldier was shot to death in fighting in the provincial capital of Baqubah, the military said. On Friday, a roadside bomb killed a soldier and wounded three others.

Fast Facts:



Effects: Irritates the respiratory system, eyes and skin at low exposure. It can cause death in heavier concentrations, but the heat from explosions can render the gas nontoxic. Primarily, it spreads panic. Victims in recent chlorine blasts died from the explosions, not the effects of the gas.

Easily accessible: It is used for water purification plants, bleaches and disinfectants.

Paired with bombs

Friday: Anbar province; as many as eight killed, 350 Iraqi civilians and six U.S. troops sickened.

Feb. 21: Baghdad; at least five killed, 55 hospitalized.

Feb. 20: Baghdad; more than 150 villagers sickened.

Feb. 19: Ramadi; two killed, 16 wounded; previously unannounced.

Jan. 28: Ramadi; 16 killed.