Mustard gas in Saudi Arabia

A Czech army chemical specialist has revealed new information on how he detected traces of mustard gas while serving in the Gulf conflict.

Lieutenant Colonel Jiri Aberle was a member of an anti-chemical weapons team sent to the Gulf at the behest of Saudi Arabia because of its specialist knowledge of chemical warfare.

The 198-strong unit reported to Saudi military command and was equipped with the most sophisticated chemical and biological warfare detectors.

Lt-Col Aberle, writing in the current issue of Applied Science and Analysis, a specialist American journal for nuclear, biological and chemical defence experts, reveals that the unit clearly detected the presence of mustard gas close to the military city of King Khalid on 19 January 1991.

He writes: "I started to operate my ChP-71 [chemical detector]. In several minutes I saw a colour change in the mustard tube. The yellow colour of the tube changed slightly to brown and a reddish brown ring appeared."

Lt-Col Aberle reports that the same day an American detection team, 3km away, made detections of sarin and mustard gases. The mustard gas samples were not concentrated enough to show up in later laboratory tests but Lt-Col Aberle said that did not surprise him.

Records recently released in America show that US Fox chemical and biological detection vehicles took seven positive readings for nerve and mustard gas at sites in northern Saudi Arabia and southern Iraq during the war. British troops reported mass sightings of dead animals in the Gulf and some believe chemical weapons were responsible.

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