(A weekly digest from the internet on chemical and biological warfare issues. Emphasis is on incidents and perspectives, but inclusion of an item does not equal endorsement or agreement with the contents. This issue covers items collected between 6 – 12 March 2017.)
Chemical warfare in Iraq
- Iraq: ICRC strongly condemns use of chemical weapons around Mosul (ICRC, 3 March 2017): The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons during fighting around the Iraqi city of Mosul.
- UN: Alleged Mosul chemical attack amounts to war crime (Al Jazeera, 4 March 2017): Investigation urged into possible use of toxic agents as Iraq hospital chief says he is certain chemical gas was used.
- Statement from the OPCW Spokesperson on Allegations of Chemical Weapons Use in Mosul, Iraq (OPCW, 5 March 2017): The OPCW has asked Iraqi authorities for more information and has offered its assistance to the Iraqi investigation.
- Iraq: Chemical weapons reportedly used in Mosul, WHO responds (Press Release, 5 March 2017): Following the reported use of chemical weapons agents in East Mosul, Iraq, WHO, partners and local health authorities have activated an emergency response plan to safely treat men, women and children who may be exposed to the highly toxic chemical.
- Iraqi families devastated by chemical attacks in Mosul (Ash Gallagher, 5 March 2017): At West Emergency Hospital in Erbil, five small children lie in beds, along with their mother, all wrapped in bandages, with chemical burns from a mortar attack that hit their house.
- ISIS Accused of Unleashing Chemical Weapons in Mosul (Belkis Wille, 6 March 2017): Iraqi Government and Humanitarians Should do More to Protect Civilians.
- Mosul chemical attack exposes an ill-prepared health system (Elizabeth Dickinson, 7 March 2017): Health facilities in most of Mosul, including areas already liberated from the Islamic State, have only basic primary care facilities.
- CPJ safety advisory: use of chemical agents in the Mosul offensive (CPJ, March 2017): The Emergencies Response Team (ERT) at the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a safety advisory on chemical weapon exposure for journalists covering or planning to cover the Mosul offensive.
- Mosul: Consultations on the Humanitarian Situation and Alleged Chemical Weapons Attack (What’s In Blue, 9 March 2017): On 10 March UN Security Council members will meet in consultations on the situation in and around Mosul, Iraq.
- Moscow concerned over chemical weapons use in Mosul (Tass, 10 March 2017): Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said on Friday that the worst fears over proliferation of chemical terrorism throughout the Middle East are coming true.
- Iraqi envoy: No evidence of Islamic State chemical attack (Edith M. Lederer, 10 March 2017): Iraq’s U.N. ambassador Mohamed Alhakim told reporters ahead of a closed Security Council meeting on a reported chemical attack that he had spoken to officials in Baghdad and informed U.N. disarmament chief Kim Won-soo of the lack of evidence in advance.
- Iraq says ‘no evidence’ of chemical weapons attacks in Mosul (Michelle Nichols, 10 Mar 2017): Iraqi U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim said on Friday there was “no evidence” that Islamic State had used chemical weapons in Mosul, where the militants are fighting off an offensive by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces.
- Iraq says no sign of IS chemical weapons use in Mosul (AFP, 11 March 2017): Following the closed-door Security Council meeting on Iraq, British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the Iraqi investigation of the alleged chemical attacks had not been completed and that the council had expressed concern.
- Russian Points to Lack of OPCW Response to Chemical Weapon Use in Iraq (Sputnik, 11 March 2017): The Russian Defense Ministry is surprised by a lack of a proper response on the part of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the use of chemical weapons in Iraq’s Mosul by the Islamic State (ISIL, also known as Daesh) terrorist group, a ministry spokesman said on Saturday.
- UN Security Council debates chemical attack in Iraq’s Mosul on Russia’s initiative (Tass, 11 March 2017): Russia suggested that chemical attackreports to be investigated by experts of the Joint Investigative Mechanism of the UN and the OPCW.
- Russia Surprised by West’s Inaction on Use of Chemicals in Mosul (IFP News, 11 March 2017): Russian Defence Ministry spokesman says the country is surprised by a lack of a proper response on the part of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to the use of chemical weapons in Iraq’s Mosul.
- Intl monitoring body & West ignoring reports of ‘chemical attack’ in Mosul – Russian MoD (RT, 11 March 2017): The Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons should review its monitoring rules, as it failed to properly react when a suspected mustard agent was used in an attack near Mosul in which civilians were injured, Russia’s Defense Ministry said.
Chemical warfare in Syria
- Iran Opposes Politicization of Syria Chemical Weapons Case (Tasnim News, 8 March 2017): Iran’s permanent representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) called on the member states to avoid politicizing the dossier on chemical weapons in Syria and help improve the critical situation in the Arab country instead.
Assassination of Kim Jong-Nam
- Assassins may have made a binary weapon of Kim Jong-nam’s face (Debora MacKenzie, 2 March 2017): There has been a twist in the mystery of how the super-deadly nerve gas VX turned up on a man murdered at Kuala Lumpur airport last week, without the collateral damage that would normally be expected with such a deadly chemical.
- Death by Nerve Gas (Bruce Bennett, 3 March 2017): To North Korea, the chemical warfare agent VX may have looked like an ideal weapon for assassination. So little would be required to kill, it could easily be smuggled into Malaysia sealed in a pen cartridge or other small object. The tasteless and odorless oil-like substance also offered the opportunity to kill cleanly and quickly without the immediate appearance of murder.
- North Korea and WMD Use: Specific Action is in Order (Byung-se Yun, Contributor, 5 March 2017): Keynote address by the Foreign Minister of Republic of Korea at the high-level segment of the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, Switzerland on 28 February 2017.
- Lawyer for Vietnamese woman in Kim’s death wants 2nd autopsy (Associated Press, 6 March 2017): A lawyer for one of the women accused of poisoning the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader says there are serious holes in the case.
- Those behind Jong-nam killing will be brought to justice, Malaysia tells OPCW (Malay Mail Online, 7 March 2017): Malaysia reported to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) today that Kim Jong-nam had been killed with the VX nerve agent.
- Malaysia warns of long N.Korea inquiry, China says no action yet (Michelle Nichols, 8 March 2017): Malaysia has warned that an investigation into the murder of the North Korean leader’s half brother “may take longer than what we hope,” as Pyongyang ally China said on Wednesday that no international action should be considered until it is finished.
- S. Korea calls for world action against N.K. use of VX at chemicals arms meeting (Yonhap, 8 March 2017): South Korea has called for a joint international response to North Korea’s suspected use of the banned VX nerve agent in the recent assassination of its leader’s half brother during the latest session of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
- Malaysia’s handling of Jong-nam murder probe praised (The Star, 10 March 2017): More countries have weighed in on Malaysia’s diplomatic row with North Korea, with several praising the country’s handling of the Kim Jong-nam murder probe and its commitment to bring those involved to justice.
- OPCW Executive Council Condemns Chemical Weapons Use in Fatal Incident in Malaysia (OPCW, 10 March 2017): The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) Executive Council (EC) adopted a decision yesterday expressing grave concern that, according to statements by the Government of Malaysia, a chemical weapon – the Schedule 1 nerve agent VX – was used in a fatal incident on 13 February 2017 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2.
Other allegations of CBW use
- Sudan: Opportunity to investigate Darfur chemical attacks must not be squandered (Amnesty International, 7 March 2017): Member states of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must demand a proper investigation into alleged chemical attacks by Sudanese government forces in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur, said Amnesty International today, as the OPCW’s Executive Council begins its four-day meeting in The Hague.
- ‘Shameful’ if Darfur chemical attacks left unprobed: Amnesty (AFP, 7 March 2017): Amnesty International on Tuesday renewed its call for a UN investigation into suspected chemical weapons attacks by Sudanese government forces in Darfur.
- Amnesty International urges probe into Darfur ‘chemical attacks’ (Ludovica Iaccino, 7 March 2017): Sudan rejects allegations of chemical attacks carried out against civilians in conflict-ridden Darfur region.
- The Evolving Chemical/Biological Terrorism Threat (Ashley Frohwein, 1 March 2017): In the past, many counterterrorism experts discounted the likelihood of CB attacks against Western targets by terrorist groups because many of these armaments tended to be expensive, hard to acquire, and difficult to weaponize and deploy. All this has changed.
- North Korea’s chemical weapons a cause for world to be vigilant (Yomiuri Shimbun, 4 March 2017): It was a serious crime involving deadly poison that can be used in chemical weapons. The international community must further heighten its vigilance on North Korea.
- A global pandemic could kill more people than nuclear war, former VP candidate Lieberman warns (Matthew J. Belvedere, 9 March 2017): The United States needs to sharpen its biodefense strategy to guard against the possibility of a global pandemic and the potential of a terrorist attack using a virus, Joe Lieberman, a former longtime U.S. senator, told CNBC on Thursday.
- North Korea has chemical weapons to target South: defector (Hiroshi Minegishi, 9 March 2017): North Korea has been producing biological and chemical weapons since the 1960s for a potential strike against South Korean cities, Thae Yong Ho, the North’s former deputy ambassador to the U.K., said.
- Kim Jong Nam is not the first victim of North Korea’s chemical weapons program (Joanna Hosaniak, 6 March 6th, 2017): North Korea is long believed to have tested WMDs on political prisoners and the disabled
- Search to begin for chemical warfare agents (Dave Hinton, 7 March 2017): From 1943-1951, an area of the former Chanute Air Force Base was used to train personnel in chemical warfare use. Sixty-six years later, the area will be checked to make sure no hazard materials were left behind.
- Bangladesh elected OPCW chair (Syed Zainul Abedin, 9 March 2017): This is a huge step forward for Bangladesh in terms of international diplomacy, as this is the first time that the country has been elected in such a high position at the OPCW.
- Sudan wins position of Deputy Chair of OPCW’S Executive Council (Sudanese Online, 11 March 2017).
- Canadian synthesizes a better smallpox vaccine — just in case terrorists bring the disease back (Tristin Hopper, 2 March 2017): Even though smallpox was eradicated 37 years ago, a Canadian researcher has just unveiled what promises to be a better, safer version of the 221-year-old smallpox vaccine. The reason? Bioterrorism.
- Agro-Terrorism Threats to Nation’s Food Supply Addressed in House, Senate Bills (Anthony Kimery, 2 March 2017): Bipartisan bills to address the threat of agro-terrorism and high-risk events which pose serious threats to food, agriculture and livestock industries across the United States were jointly introduced by legislators in both the House and Senate.
- With some biological threats mitigated, BARDA shifts focus to combat highly pathogenic viruses, chemical agents (Tracy Rozens, 6 March 2017): Over the next five years, BARDA will ramp up its investment in two key areas: medical countermeasures for viral hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola and chemical threat agents.
- Biodefense: Canada develops novel live virus smallpox vaccine from horsepox (Dani Bancroft, 7 March 2017): Tonix Pharmaceuticals Holding Corp. has synthesised a live form of horsepox virus (HPXV) which has demonstrated protective acitivity against the smallpox virus in mice.
- Driving Our Commitment to Biodefense (Patrick Lucy, 8 March 2017): According to a study last year from Morning Consult, only half of Americans are confident in the ability of the U.S. government to protect our nation against a significant biosecurity threat. According to that same poll, more than 80 percent believe the government should invest more to combat such a threat.
- HII Division Lands Chem-Bio Defense Acquisition Technical Support Contract (Jane Edwards, 9 March 2017): A Huntington Ingalls Industries division has received a contract to continue to provide acquisition technical support services to the Defense Department’s joint program executive office for chemical and biological defense.