US probing reported chlorine gas attack in Iraq

Washington: The US is looking into reported chlorine gas attack carried out by Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq, Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday. "I am not in a position to confirm it, but I can tell you that we take these allegations very, very seriously," Xinhua quoted Kerry as telling reporters after meeting South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.

A total of 11 Iraqi police officers were diagnosed to be poisoned by chlorine gas last month, which appears to be the first confirmed use of chemical weapons by the Islamic State (IS) on the battlefield, a Washington Post report said. "These allegations are extremely serious and we are seeking additional information in order to be able to determine whether or not we can confirm it," Kerry said.

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest told a press briefing Friday that the US will "have staff on the ground and other places analyze what exactly happened and try to get to the bottom of these reports". The use of any chemical weapon is "an abhorrent act", said Kerry, adding that the allegations underscore the importance of the work that the US is currently engaged in.

"It will not change our strategy," the top US diplomat said. "It obviously can affect tactical decisions within that strategy, but our fundamental strategy remains absolutely clear." US began air campaign against IS targets in Iraq in August and expanded its strikes to Syria in September with the objective of ultimately degrade and destroy the extremist group.

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