The facility holding Libya's remaining stockpile of mustard blister agent might become vulnerable to infiltration amid the political instability now gripping the country, CNN reported on Friday (see GSN, Feb. 25).
Before this month's unrest, Libya had been making progress toward eliminating its chemical arsenal in keeping with the Qadhafi regime's formal abandonment of WMD activities in 2003. The nation has destroyed more than 50 percent of its roughly 25-metric-ton cache of mustard agent, according to recent reports. Libya was slated to destroy its remaining stockpile of mustard agent by May, but achievement of that goal appears unlikely given this month's developments, Arms Control Association analyst Peter Crail said.
The remaining material is in storage at Libya's Rabta chemical weapons site, located roughly 50 miles from Tripoli.
The site "is surrounded by a fence, as well as a sand berm," chemical weapons expert Jonathan Tucker said. "Presumably, there are Libyan government forces that are guarding this facility. But if they were to be redeployed, the facility is potentially vulnerable because there is an access road that leads directly to it."
Tripoli in 2004 eliminated the arsenal of empty munitions that could have been used to deliver the agent, Crail noted.
Tucker, though, suggested a conventional explosive could be used to disperse the material.
"A terrorist would not need an aerial bomb to deliver a chemical agent. Instead, it could develop an improvised chemical device that would simply release a small amount of agent and have a terrorizing effect," he said (CNN, Feb. 25).