Halabja

When & Where In a highly lethal and well-organized attack, Iraqi forces bombed and dropped chemical agents on the Kurdish city of Halabja on Friday, March 16, 1988. This date i

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When & Where

In a highly lethal and well-organized attack, Iraqi forces bombed and dropped chemical agents on the Kurdish city of Halabja on Friday, March 16, 1988. This date is now infamously referred to as "Bloody Friday" due to the large numbers of causalities, both military and civilian, spanning both genders and all age groups. Between 3,200 and 5,000 were killed immediately, with as many as 10,000 or more injured.The city of Halabja is located in the now autonomous Kurdistan Region in Iraq. It is about 150 miles north-east of Baghdad, and very close to the border of Iran. At the time of the attack, there was a population of about 40,000, plus an additional 20,000 Kurdish refugees and deserters fleeing attacks in nearby towns.

How & Why

The chemical attack on Halabja was part of an overall military goal implemented by Saddam Hussein's deputy and first cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid to eradicate the Kurdish populations of Iraq. This operation was named the al-Anfal campaign and included the systematic massacre and deportation of 4,000 Kurdish villages and towns. Also called "Chemical Ali," Majid's goal was to completely kill the Kurdish people in order to stop the current revolution.As part of the Kurdish revolution efforts, Iranian troops began attacking Iraqi military positions in and around Halabja on March 13, 1988. Iraqi attacks on the city began on March 16, 1988, with artillery, napalm firestorms, bombs, and chemical gas weapons. Beginning first with traditional weaponry, the Iraqi forces drove the Kurdish people into bomb shelters and underground cellars.

Majid planned this so that when he attacked with gas, the people could not escape.After the gassing was complete, scientific and military evaluation teams were sent to determine the effectiveness of the chemical killing solution. According to Dr. Christine Gosden of Liverpool University, "Iraqi government troops would be surrounding the attack site and they would have chem-bio suits on...included would be doctors and interested observers...they would go in and find out how many people were dead...and how many survived. What ages ...did men, women or children or the elderly suffer more? From there they would shoot the survivors and burn the bodies... " The attacks on Halabja gave Saddam Hussein evidence to consider additional terrorizing attacks using chemical weapons.

 
Long-Term Effects
Some citizens survived the terrible incident, but not without serious repercussions. A few got away relatively unharmed, but at a cost of losing their entire families. Much more were seriously injured as a result of exposure to the chemical ingredients -- a mixture of mustard and nerve gasses, some later dying of their wounds and others suffering for years. Today, high rates of cancer, miscarriages, congenital birth defects, disfigurement, blindness, and other respiratory, digestive, and neurological disorders continue to plague the affected population.

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