Scientists may be able to identify Iraqi chemical weapon supplier

A British expert on chemical warfare recently said that scientists may be able to identify the country that supplied Iraqi forces with the chemical weapons used to kill thousands in Halabja in 1988.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon and the Kurdish government are working together on how to decontaminate Halabja, which continues to feel the effects from the attack nearly 25 years later. Saddam Hussein's air force used multiple chemical agents against the town during the attack, including sarin, tabun and VX, killing approximately 5,000 people, BBC reports.

"We have a problem around here when they are building new buildings, they dig the foundations, they come across these pockets of mustard gas... and people have died recently doing that," de Bretton-Gordon said, according to BBC.

De Bretton-Gordon said that by taking samples of mustard gas from the mass graves and cellars in the town, researchers may be able to identify which country and factory supplied the original chemicals to Hussein's regime.

"We expect to find samples of mustard gas in the mass graves, as we have done in the cellars," de Bretton-Gordon said, according to BBC. "And if we can break it down to its base molecule components, we will be able to see what its signature is, and then we can match it against a sample.

The Kurdish government has not yet approved plans to disturb the mass graves, but the testing may continue in an effort to close the book on the tragic incident.

"I think we owe it to ourselves, to the victims, to really take a more in-depth look at what happened, how it happened," Qubad Talabani, a senior minister in the regional government, said, according to BBC.