Qadaffi troops received gas masks, documents reveal

Documents indicating that Muammar Qaddafi’s remaining strongholds received shipments of thousands of gas masks in the weeks before the collapse of his regime have raised concerns that the deposed dictator may still have access to chemical weapons like mustard gas.

Libyan rebels say they are worried that Qaddafi's remaining forces could use the gas in a last-ditch effort to halt their advances, according to the Washington Post.

“It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s not beyond Qaddafi,” Mohammed Benrasali, a senior member of Libya’s civilian stabilization team, said, the Washington Post reports.

The U.S. Department of Defense said it believes Libya’s remaining stockpiles are secure, but rebel commanders say they are moving more cautiously near Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte because of the concerns.

Qaddafi used chemical weapons during a war with neighboring Chad in 1987, but disavowed their use in 2003 in hopes it would help bring ties with the West. Much of his stockpiles are thought to have been eliminated, but a 2009 U.S Embassy cable released by WikiLeaks suggested that the dictator was still using what remained as leverage for greater compensation.

When the uprising began, 11.25 tons of the poison gas remained in Libya, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

U.S. officials remain skeptical about assertions that Qaddafi possessed, much less was capable of using, chemical weapons.

“Qaddafi did, in fact, destroy many of his most dangerous weapons and never had weaponized sarin or nerve gas,” an official said anonymously, the Washington Post reports. “Much of what remains is outdated and difficult to make operational.”

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