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The Halabja poison gas attack occurred in the period of March 16–17, 1988, during the closing days of the Iran-Iraq War, when chemical weapons were used by the Iraqi government forces in the Kurdish town of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan. The attack instantly killed thousands of people (3,200-5,000 dead instantly) and injured 7,000-10,000, most of them civilians; thousands more died of complications, diseases, and birth defects in the years after the attack. The incident, which some define as an act of genocide, was as of 2010 the largest-scale chemical weapons attack directed against a civilian-populated area in history. The attack began early in the evening of March 16, 1988, following a series of indiscriminate conventional (rocket and napalm) attacks, when Iraqi MiG and Mirage aircraft began dropping chemical bombs on Halabja's residential areas, far from the besieged Iraqi army base on the outskirts of the town. According to regional Kurdish rebel commanders, Iraqi aircraft conducted up to 14 bombing sorties of seven to eight planes each; helicopters coordinating the operation were also seen. Eyewitnesses have told of clouds of smoke billowing upward "white, black and then yellow"', rising as a column about 150 feet (46 meters) in the air. Survivors said the gas at first scented with the smell of sweet apples; they said people died in a number of ways, suggesting a combination of toxic chemicals (some of the victims "just dropped dead" while others "died of laughing"; while still others took a few minutes to die, first "burning and blistering" or coughing up green vomit). It is believed that Iraqi forces used multiple chemical agents during the attack, including mustard gas and the nerve agents sarin, soman, tabun and VX; some sources have also pointed to the blood agent hydrogen cyanide (most of the wounded taken to hospitals in the Iranian capital Tehran were suffering from mustard gas exposure). The first images after the attack were taken by Iranian journalists who later spread the pictures in Iranian newspapers - film of the atrocity was also shown worldwide via news programmes. Some of those first pictures were taken by Iranian photographer Kaveh Golestan. Recalling the scenes at Halabja, Kaveh described the scene to Guy Dinmore of the Financial Times. Kaveh was about eight kilometres outside Halabja with a military helicopter when the Iraqi MiG-23 fighter-bombers flew in. "It was not as big as a nuclear mushroom cloud, but several smaller ones: thick smoke," he said. He was shocked by the scenes on his arrival in the town, though he had seen gas attacks before during the brutal Iran-Iraq War. Ali Hasan al-Majid ("Chemical Ali") was condemned to death by hanging by an Iraqi court in January 2010, after being found guilty of orchestrating the Halabja massacre. He was executed on January 25th 2010. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]
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