Libyan chemical weapons 'safely destroyed' with US help

Feb 3, 2014

As efforts continue to neutralise Syria's chemical weapons, Gaddafi's stockpile has been eliminated

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LIBYA'S lethal stockpile of chemical weapons has been completely neutralised in a secret operation backed by the American government and carried out by Libyan contractors trained in Germany and Sweden.

While international efforts to destroy Syria's chemical weapons have been held up by delays, the Libyan operation reached a successful conclusion last week, according to the New York Times.

"As Libya's weak central government grapples with turmoil and unrest, and as kidnappings and assassinations of military and police officers accelerate in the country's east, American and international weapons specialists hailed the destruction of the Libyan stockpile as a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy security environment," the paper reported.

Hundreds of bombs and artillery shells filled with sulphur mustard were reportedly destroyed in mobile ovens in a remote area of the Libyan desert, about 400 miles southeast of Tripoli.

Often referred to as mustard gas, the toxin was first used during the First World War. It is "a powerful irritant and blistering agent that damages the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract [and] damages DNA, a vital component of cells in the body, especially in the bone marrow," explains the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The operation was "cloaked in secrecy", says the NYT, in part because the fragile Libyan government is reluctant to admit that it is working with the West.

"Asked about the American efforts to destroy the chemical weapons, Libyan security officials in Tripoli initially issued sweeping denials," the paper reports. "One later briefly acknowledged the operation on the condition of anonymity, and then officials stopped returning phone calls."

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