French hospitals and emergency services across the country have been supplied with the most powerful antidote to sarin and other nerve gas chemicals for the first time.
The move demonstrates how the authorities are preparing for chemical and biological warfare with ISIS terrorists, after the French Prime Minister warned the French parliament of such attacks just yesterday.
The government ordered the army’s medical service to distribute stocks of the drug atropine before Friday’s deadly attacks, the Times reports.
President Assad of Syria is well known to have large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. His forces used sarin gas during attacks on a Damascus suburb in 2013, which killed up to 1,500.
Senior U.S. officials said they believed the Islamic State had deployed mustard gas against Kurdish fighters in August. Although there is no hard evidence yet, it is not implausible to assume that ISIS have captured some of Assad’s weapons of mass destruction from the battlefield.
A French government decree issued last Wednesday, said: “the risk of terrorist attacks and the risk of exposure to neurotoxins . . . constitute a serious health threat which imposes urgent measures”.
It advocated taking all possible precautions “in case of the exposure of a potentially great number of victims of neurotoxins.”
Exposure to the deadly chemical causes foaming at the mouth, violent convulsions, paralysis and eventually leads to death by asphyxiation.
Atropine is a very effective antidote, but needs to be administered rapidly. Currently only the army has access to the drug in France, and the emergency services have been requesting their own stockpile for some time.
François Chotard, a spokesman for the Army’s Medical Service, said: “We are under obligation to supply more medication to units that prepare for and respond to health emergencies.”
The quantities being distributed remain classified. Mr. Chotard added: “Our enemies are not supposed to know how many wounded people we expect.”
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said yesterday: “I say it with all the precautions needed. But we know and bear in mind that there is also a risk of chemical or bacteriological weapons”.