Chemical weapons: Islamic Emirate (Taliban) latest alleged victims of attack?

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Taliban in preparation prior to assault on Shorab (Camp Bastion) airbase

The long war in Afghanistan rages on with violence escalating in recent days against NATO troops and the Afghan Nation Army. Many in the west continue to blindly support the occupying forces which can best be summed up in the following statement by Patrick Hennessey who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 as a Captain in command of an OMLT (a combined unit of British and Afghan troops) fighting throughout Helmand Province in Sangin, Nahr-e-Saraj and Gereshk,

“the wars of the last decade have been universally unpopular – at best misunderstood misadventures, at worst unjustifiable, crippling crusades – but the support of the British public for the Armed Forces has never been higher”

A particularly daring attack was carried out by 10 “mujahideen” of the martyr unit of the Islamic Emirate (Afghan Taliban) on Shorab airbase (Camp Bastion) in Helmand Province beginning at around 08:00 pm local time on 27th of November 2014. This came one month after U.S. and coalition troops turned over the base to the Afghan military. The battle was fierce with fighters telephoning other Taliban from the scene relaying progress updates. The assault lasted for 4 days.

I checked out the report on Shorab as issued by the Islamic Emirate alongside press articles. Two lines from the Taliban write-up immediately jumped out at me which read,

“after putting up fierce resistance for several days, the invaders finally used internationally banned chemical weapons fired from air on 01/12/2014 from which the last Mujahid attained martyrdom, may Allah accept them”

This is worrying and all such allegations should be investigated but it is unlikely given that firstly, many in the west will immediately dismiss this as “propaganda” secondly, few officials and human rights organizations will want to investigate given its against the Taliban and thirdly, it could prove difficult to independently research such claims.

Today Sunday 8th December Al Jazeera reports that allegations have also been made against the Syrian government for allegedly using chlorine gas against the Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that ISIL fighters showed the effects of a chlorine gas attack and noted, “some of the groups fighters had breathing problems as they attempted to close in on the strategic Deir Ezzor military airport.”

In recent weeks I have been very concerned to see videos which I was told were new reports showing a number of males (alleged to be fighters in Syria) undergoing great suffering, convulsing, foaming at the mouth, discoloured skin, showing signs of chemical weapons poisoning.

I was one of the first to receive video and photographic images plus an urgent cry for help back in August 2013 from Syrian opposition supporters. They depicted disturbing scenes of an alleged chemical attack on East Ghouta, Damascus launched by Bashar al-Assad regime (my article on this can be read in the links section). One alert read,

“East Ghouta, Damascas province, 21-08-2013: regime’s chemical weapons attacks on Ein Tarma and Zamalka in the East Ghouta region of Damascus province tonight. According to an eyewitness in East Ghouta, regime forces are now launching missiles at the areas of the attacks in order to prevent rescuers and medical personnel from reaching them” 

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One of many images received alleged to show children suffering effect of “gas attack” Syria

This resulted in a joint mission between the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons programme. The Guardian reported that the joint UN-OPCW mission has said all 1,300 tons of declared chemical weapons have been removed, with Syria declaring four chemical weapons facilities it had not previously disclosed. However with recent allegations reported by Al Jazeera there is a fear that the Assad regime is continuing to use chemical weapons in Syria, in violation of the chemical weapons convention. Chemical weapons could also have fallen into the hands of those fighting against the regime.

So what is a chemical weapon?

The OPCW state that a chemical weapon is usually a toxic chemical contained in a delivery system such as a bomb or shell. The general definition is as follows,

“the term chemical weapon is applied to any toxic chemical or its precursor that can cause death, injury, temporary incapacitation or sensory irritation through its chemical action. Munitions or other delivery devices designed to deliver chemical weapons, whether filled or unfilled, are also considered weapons themselves.

The toxic chemicals that have been used as chemical weapons, or have been developed for use as chemical weapons, can be categorised as choking, blister, blood, or nerve agents. The most well known agents are as follows: choking agents—chlorine and phosgene, blister agents (or vesicants)—mustard and lewisite, blood agents—hydrogen cyanide, nerve agents—sarin, soman, VX”

Chemical weapons were first recorded as tested out on the Germans by the French in August 1914 during the First World War. The delivery system was in the form of tear gas grenades containing xylyl bromide and acted as more of an irritant rather than a gas that would kill. Later types produced included Poison gas (chlorine) used for the first time at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. Other developments included phosgene and mustard gas. The horrors of gas in the trenches is captured in this poignant extract from Dulce et Decorum est written by First World War poet Wilfred Owen,

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime. –
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

Chemical weapons were used to devastating effect on 16 March 1988 when Iraq dropped bombs containing mustard gas, Sarin and Tabun on the Kurdish city of Halabja. Death figures of civilian casualties range from 3,200 to 5,000, with many survivors suffering long-term health problems.

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Poison gas attack Halabja (Kurdish genocide website) 

The New York Times also recently featured a report on “the secret casualties of Iraq’s abandoned chemical weapons. The paper stated,

“in all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West”

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/14/world/middleeast/us-casualties-of-iraq-chemical-weapons.html

Legislation

The first step towards legislating against chemical weapons came in 1925 due to public outrage and prohibited their use in warfare. There were however limitations as this did not prohibit the development, production or stockpiling of chemical weapons. This did not happen until many years later with the introduction of the Chemical Weapons Convention adopted by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on 3 September 1992. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was formally established on 29 April 1997 and the General Assembly in September 2001 ensured a regulated cooperation between the United Nations and the OPCW.

For further information, check out United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) on the following link,

http://www.un.org/disarmament/WMD/Chemical/

Fear of a dirty bomb

On the 5th December, the Washington Times  reported that the Islamic State group claims to be in possession of uranium (allegedly stolen from Mosul University) which could be used in a “dirty bomb” and referred to conversations on Twitter and the possible impact if one was released on London.

Links

“Syria accused of using chlorine gas on ISIL”

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/12/syria-accused-using-chlorine-gas-isil-201412702323939432.html

“East Ghouta, Damascus, Syrian opposition claiming chemical attacks with hundreds killed, urgent investigation required”

https://activist1.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/east-ghouta-damascus-syrian-opposition-claiming-chemical-attacks-with-hundreds-killed-urgent-investigation-required/

“ISIS Twitter accounts claim they have weaponized stolen uranium, created dirty bomb”

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2014/12/04/ISIS-Twitter-Accts-Claim-They-Have-Weaponized-Stolen-Uranium-Created-Dirty-Bomb

 

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. (She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”)

About Carol Anne Grayson

Blogging for Humanity.... Campaigner/researcher global health/human rights/drones/WOT/insurgency http://www.esrc.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/PO/experts/Health_and_Wellbeing.aspx Exec Producer of Oscar nominated documentary Incident in New Baghdad, currently filming on drones.
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