>> As troops push towards Islamic State's Iraqi strongholds, there are fears that desperate militants could step up chemical warfare. On the front line in the north, Kurdish fighters say attacks from chemical weapons are on the rise. They faced 12 confirmed such attacks, but the real number is likely much higher.
UK experts say it's a threat that Kurds are ill-equipped to deal with. I'm Reuters reporter Emily Wither at a gas mask factory in West England. The Kurdish Peshmerga are asking governments for more of these as they prepare for the assault on Mosul, they're anticipating attacks using chemical weapons.
Former commanding officer in the British Army Hamish Debretton Gordon is an expert on chemical warfare. He now works for Avon Protection, a company that makes gas masks for the US Army. Recently returned from Iraq, he donated over 200 of them to Kurdish fighters and provided training. He says Islamic State are stockpiling chemical weapons.
>> All the preparations that they're doing around the chemical weapons program that are becoming more and more evident, to me looks as though they are preparing the ground for that ultimate contest. And I think they believe if they use chemical weapons then they won't be defeatable.>> How are the Islamic State getting their hands on these materials?
>> We're absolutely certain they are making their own chemical weapons. It would appear to be mustard agent, mustard gas, in Mosul and also probably Raka, and they've got all the precursors they need to make mustard agent from the oil and gas industry.>> He's now trying to raise money for 20,000 more masks for a frontline force of double that.
For the Kurds fighting now, he says the threat of gas attacks is also psychological. Thousands were gassed to death by Saddam Hussein in the 80s, a not too distant memory for troops now seen as key to driving out Islamic State.