1 Near-suffocation due to what appears to be a scorched-earth policy employed by Islamic State militants is causing further suffering to civilians in Northern Iraq, a UN agency said on Thursday.
2 The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a statement fires are set in an apparent response to the ongoing military offensive to drive the extremist group out of its stronghold of Mosul.
3 It said that a total of 19 oil wells have been set ablaze by armed groups near the town of Qayyarah, South-east of Mosul, with citizens and security forces exposed to toxic fumes.
4 Iraqi authorities have blamed the blazes on Islamic State.
5 The agency said that last week, stockpiles of poisonous materials stored at the Mishraq Sulphate Factory near Mosul also caught fire, leading to a large toxic plume spreading over dozens of km.
6 “Iraqi health authorities, supported by the World Health Organisation, treated more than 1,000 cases of suffocation in towns and villages bordering Mosul.
7 “This week, a water plant was reportedly affected by fighting, leading to a chlorine gas leak,’’ UNEP said without specifying the location of the facility.
8 UN Environment Chief Erik Solheim has described it as sad episode.
Edited by: Damilola Oyewole/Felix Ajide