​Chemical jihad? ‘Growing chance’ of chlorine bomb attacks in UK – security experts

Reuters / Thaier Al-Sudani
Britain is facing a growing threat of chlorine attack on its soil by UK jihadists returning home from Syria and Iraq, chemical warfare experts warn. Bombs containing chlorine are said to be the “chemical weapon of choice” for terrorists.

Counter-terrorism police are taking steps to diminish the danger of bombs laced with chlorine, The Times of London has learned.

Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, formerly of the Army’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment and is currently one of the leading chem warfare experts, is calling on the authorities to strengthen controls on the sale of chlorine.

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“As more jihadists return to this country there is a growing chance of a chlorine bomb attack. That to me outs it through the threshold where we should look into this seriously,” he told the Times.

Although chlorine is most commonly used for disinfecting surfaces and purifying water, it can be deadly if inhaled. There are tight controls on the sale of the chlorine gas in certain countries, including Iraq. However, in Britain it is possible to buy 90 tons of the substance without a license.

Colonel says there is a high possibility an improvised explosive could be made, adding the gas used in bombs often comes from the cylinder on the back of the household fridges.

"Somebody could go to a waste site where people chuck away fridges and get a whole bunch of these things and blow them up," De Bretton-Gordon told the Times.

Fears over possible chemical attack on the UK soil have increased after improvised explosive devices were discovered in the city of Tikrit located in northern Iraq. The city was retaken by the government forces from Islamic State militants this year and it was revealed that up to 25 per cent of explosives contained chlorine.

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“It is what makes Iraq and Syria and returning jihadists the No 1 issue that security services are going to be looking at,” counterterrorism expert Olivier Guitta told The Times. “I don’t want to scare people, but that is the reality of things.”

In March, De Bretton-Gordon warned that a chlorine gas attack could happen “on a train or tube or even at a big football match.”

UK counter-terrorism police say they monitor purchases of chlorine as well as other materials that could be used in bomb-making to avoid any stockpiling. One policing source has confirmed to the newspaper that the units were aware of the possibility of terrorists using a chlorine bomb on British soil.