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Safety

Libya’s Chemical Arsenal Destroyed

Chemical Weapons: An international team has eliminated the last of the cache

by Glenn Hess
February 10, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 6

An international effort with U.S. support has discreetly destroyed the remnants of Libya’s stockpile of chemical weapons, the Defense Department said last week.

The arsenal included hundreds of artillery shells filled with deadly sulfur mustard agent dating back to the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, who ruled from 1969 until he was killed in 2011.

“This is the culmination of a major international effort to eliminate weapons of mass destruction from Libya and to ensure that they never fall into the hands of terrorists,” says Andrew C. Weber, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs.

The destruction of the Libyan stockpile began in 2004 when Libya joined the Chemical Weapons Convention. The international treaty prohibits the production, use, or stockpiling of such weapons.

At that time, Libya declared approximately 25 metric tons of sulfur mustard gas, nearly 1,400 tons of precursor chemicals, and more than 3,500 bombs containing chemical weapons.

In October 2011, the new Libyan government discovered an additional 2 tons of mustard agent loaded into artillery rounds, sleeves for rockets, and bombs.

Elimination of the remaining cache began three months ago and was performed by Libyans trained in Germany and Sweden. Dynasafe, a Swedish firm, built a transportable, ovenlike device to vaporize the toxic munitions at high temperatures. The U.S. provided $45 million in funding for the project.

The U.S. is also involved in the mission to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons (see page 24).

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