British sailors, alongside the Danish Navy, have helped to escort the last chemicals that could have been used to make toxic weapons out of Libya, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) reports.
Libya was largely disarmed of chemical weapons in 2014 but the last remnants have now been taken out of the war-wracked North African state after a request by the country’s UN-brokered unity government to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
“RFA Mounts Bay will help ensure chemical weapons precursors do not fall into the hands of extremist groups, including Daesh [Arabic pejorative term for IS]. This contribution underlines our support to the Libyan Government of National Accord,” Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also applauded the effort.
“The UK, in close cooperation with our international partners, is taking practical and effective action to eliminate chemical weapon risks in Libya,” he said.
The chemicals will be taken to a specialist facility to be destroyed.
The military said samples of the chemicals would be “flown to the UK for analysis by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down – the MoD’s science arm.”
Speaking to the Telegraph on Wednesday, former British Army chemical warfare specialist Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said: “There’s been a very sophisticated operation going on to remove these chemicals. It’s a very significant day.
“A very large amount of chemical weapons are now in the relative safety of coalition ships, where there was a view some time ago that there was a possibility that they could fall into the hands of Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL],” he said.
Libya has been in a state of crisis since the removal of the country’s authoritarian ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi by a US-led NATO coalition in 2011.