Chemical Weapons Expert Says Chlorine Attacks In Iraq Will Be Hard To Stop

Monday, March 19th 2007, 10:25 pm

By: News On 6

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ A chemical warfare expert said Monday the chlorine gas-loaded weapons used by Iraqi insurgents amount to ``chemical dirty bombs'' and will be hard to stop.

However, the insurgents so far appear only to have access to a rudimentary and inefficient method of spreading the gas _ blowing it up in suicide bombings.

Jonathan Tucker, a visiting Fulbright fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said there is little that can be done to stop the attacks because chlorine, which is used for water purification across Iraq, is so widely available.

``They can try to limit access to chlorine ... but given the black market situation that would be difficult to do,'' he said in a telephone interview during a visit to The Hague.

``This is obviously a very crude terrorist tactic. Terrorists tend to be very opportunistic and this is a new tactic for them that is scaring a lot of people and doing significant harm,'' he said. ``These are chemical dirty bombs.''

On Friday, three suicide bombers driving trucks rigged with tanks of toxic chlorine gas struck targets in heavily Sunni Anbar province, killing at least two people and sickening 350 Iraqi civilians and six U.S. troops, the U.S. military said.

The attacks drew a sharp condemnation Monday from Rogelio Pfirter, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a U.N. watchdog.

``Once again we have witnessed the horrors of chemicals being used to terrorize and kill innocent civilians in Iraq,'' he said.

There have been four other bombings that released chlorine gas since Jan. 28, when a suicide bomber driving a dump truck filled with explosives and a chlorine tank struck a quick-reaction force and Iraqi police in Ramadi, killing 16 people.

The method used by Iraqi insurgents for spreading the gas _ carrying it in vehicles blown up by suicide bombers _ is ``an extremely crude means of delivery,'' Tucker said. ``A lot of the chemicals would be consumed in the explosion itself. It is just not a very efficient means of dispersal.''

Chlorine irritates the respiratory system, eyes and skin at low exposure and can cause death in heavier concentrations.

Victims in the recent chlorine blasts died from the explosions, not the effects of the gas, but scores of people have been hospitalized suffering the effects of chlorine exposure.

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