Category Archives: Chemical

Below the headlines: CBW matters (5)

(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 13 – 19 March 2017.)

Chemical warfare in Iraq

Iraq says there is no evidence of ISIS chemical attack in Mosul (Rudaw, 12 March 2017): Iraq has “no evidence” that ISIS had used chemical weapons in Mosul, the country’s ambassador to the United Nations Mohamed Ali Alhakim told reporters on Friday. Alhakim made the remarks as the UN Security Council was briefed on the situation of Mosul behind the closed doors. VIDEO: ISIS chemical attack hits Iraqi forces (GEOPOLMonitor Staff, 14 March 2017): A mortar believed to be fired by ISIS landed near a Rudaw news agency team embedded with Iraqi forces in Mosul, causing severe respiratory problems among the advancing Iraqi soldiers and media. Doctors ‘100 percent sure’ chemical weapons used near Mosul (Chad Garland, 15 March 2017): The incident followed allegations earlier this month that Islamic State fighters turned chemical weapons on civilians in the battle for Mosul, now in its fifth month. The United Nations has said it would be a war crime, if confirmed, but Iraq’s U.N. ambassador said last week there is no evidence to support the allegations. Medical workers, however, say they’ve seen and treated the evidence — the symptoms of about a dozen civilian patients. Russian Foreign Ministry reiterates IS systematically uses chemical weapons in Mosul

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Below the headlines: CBW matters (4)

(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

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Below the headlines: CBW matters (3)

(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 27 February – 5 March 2017.)

Assassination of Kim Jong-Nam

Killing Kim Jong Nam With VX Nerve Agent Crossed a ‘Red Line’ (Brian Barrett, 24 February 2017):  That this particular chemical weapon would be used in a political assassination in a third country is very alarming. It’s a red line. It should be considered a new threshold that’s been crossed in terms of unconventional weapons. Did the nerve agent VX kill Kim Jong Nam? (Poison Review, 24 February 2017): Despite the announcement that VX was identified, there are still some puzzling details that don’t seem to fit. Duped into killing Kim? 2 suspects say it looked like prank (Tran Van Minh, 25 February 2017): The two women told officials from their embassies in Malaysia that they believed the entire operation was a harmless prank for a reality show. Malaysian police say the attackers knew what they were doing and had been trained to go immediately to the bathroom and clean their hands. North Korean leader’s half brother suffered a ‘very painful death’ within 20 minutes, Malaysian officials say

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VX assassination and ALT+Reality

The assassination of Kim Jong-nam with—according to Malaysian authorities—the nerve agent VX unsurprisingly yielded many press articles, expert commentaries and other opinion pieces. Equally unsurprising is how uninformed several commentators are about the basics of all things chemical warfare. And I am not even referring to the ignorati who characterise VX (or mustard agent, for that matter—courtesy Dan’s unrelenting aspiration to educate the Twitterati) as a gas (it is a liquid with the viscosity of motor oil). It is about not checking basic facts or the accuracy of sources (which may quickly become outdated), as well as copy-and-paste work—particularly from peers or Wikipedia.

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Below the headlines: CBW matters (2)

(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 20 – 26 February 2017.)

Assassination of Kim Jong-Nam

Video of Poisoning of Kim Jong-Nam Calls Suspect’s Story into Question (David Bixenspan, 21 February 2017): The suspect in the chemical attack-murder of Kim Jong-Nam is claiming she was told she was shooting a TV prank show and had no idea she wasn’t spraying him with water. The newly released video of the attacked suggests otherwise. Kim Jong-nam killing: the arrested, the wanted, and people of interest (Oliver Holmes, 22 February 2017): Four people of different nationalities have been arrested and seven North Koreans are wanted in connection with the attack on the exiled half-brother of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. North Korea denies it was behind death of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in Malaysia (Hyung-Jin Kim, 22 February 2017): North Korea denied that its agents masterminded the assassination of the half brother of leader Kim Jong Un, saying a Malaysian investigation into the death of one of its nationals is full of “holes and contradictions.” Assassins wiped toxin on Kim Jong Un’s brother, police say

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VX murder in Kuala Lumpur?

According to an overnight statement by the Malaysian police, Kim Jong Nam—half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un—was assassinated with the nerve agent VX at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

VX is one of the high-end chemical warfare agents developed and produced in large quantities by the USA, USSR and some secondary powers during the cold war. Former military chemical weapon arsenals are being eliminated under the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), of course, is together with Egypt, Israel and South Sudan one of the four hold-out states. It is widely believed to have a significant chemical warfare capacity, but how militarily effective it might be is anyone’s guess.

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Below the headlines: CBW matters (1)

(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 first issue covers items collected between 1–20 February 2017.)

BTWC Implementation

  • BWC Newsletter (February 2017): The BTWC Implementation Support Unit published the first issue of its periodic newsletter.

BW Threats

Bioterrorism poses catastrophic threat to U.S. agriculture (Homeland Security Newswire, 30 January 2017): Members of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense consider the threat of terrorism with BW against the US agricultural sector as a major threat. Congress needs to act now to prevent another biodisaster like anthrax, Zika (Jeff Schlegelmilch; Ellen P. Carlin, 30 January 2017): Opinion piece on the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a critical provision that implements a major recommendation of the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, namely the development of a strategy and implementation plan for national biodefense. Synbio and Biosecurity (Devang Mehta, 5 February 2017): Discussion about the evolution of the debate on the threats posed by synthetic biology over the past 15 years. Bioterrorism could kill more people than nuclear war, Bill Gates to warn world leaders

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Allegation of chemical warfare in Darfur

Warning: contains extreme graphic images of injuries and infection

Last September Amnesty International (AI) issued a 105-page report entitled Scorched Earth, Poisoned Air alleging the use of chemical weapons (CW) among other atrocities committed by Sudanese forces in the Darfur region. The chemical warfare section contains numerous images of civilian victims with horrifying skin lesions. It suggests that these are the consequence of exposure to a vesicant, possibly a mustard agent. The report is accompanied by a 4-minute video on YouTube. Several press articles and contributions to on-line media after the report’s publication have reinforced the allegation of mustard agent use.

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Non-proliferation assistance: A proliferation of national focal points?

On 9 December I attended a one-day seminar entitled Assistance and capacity-building in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, Disarmament and Non-Proliferation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It took place in one of the committee rooms in the old building of the African Union Commission. It had none of the trappings of many modern high-tech venues, but offered all amenities one can wish for during a day-long meeting: an electricity plug under the desk (a civilisational advance that has yet to reach the main room for meetings of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, or BTWC, at the United Nations in Geneva), internet access, soothing brown background colours of wood-panelled walls, and—most unusual nowadays—daylight. Two pyramidal domes in the ceiling let in glorious sunshine and skimming light entering through the rows of windows running the entire length of the back wall softened the sharp contrasts thrown by the sunrays from above. Even in the late afternoon when a diffuse darkness was gradually filling the committee room, the rays of a setting sun lit up the roofs of nearby buildings in a colourful backdrop to participants exchanging final impressions of the day’s discussions.

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Education & outreach in chemical weapon disarmament

Exactly one year ago today, the Conference of the States Parties in its 20th session decided on the establishment of the Advisory Board on Education and Outreach (ABEO) as a subsidiary body to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

In 2016 the 15-member board met twice and formulated its first sets of recommendations. On 1 December I reported on the ABEO’s work to the 21st session of the Conference of the States Parties. Due to a 7-minute time restriction I could deliver only a summary of the most important points. Below is the full text of the statement as circulated to the states party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

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