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Britain reportedly tested poison gas on Indian troops in 1930s

Associated Press
Published September 2, 2007


LONDON - British military scientists tested mustard gas on hundreds of Indian soldiers during more than a decade of experiments that began before World War II, a British newspaper reported Saturday.

The experiments to determine whether mustard gas damaged Indians' skin more than British soldiers' began in the early 1930s and lasted more than 10 years at a military site in Rawalpindi, now in Pakistan, the Guardian reported, citing newly discovered National Archive documents.

The tests caused large numbers of burns, some of which were so damaging the subjects had to be hospitalized, a 1942 report cited by the newspaper said.

"Severely burned patients are often very miserable and depressed and in considerable discomfort, which must be experienced to be properly realized," the report said.

The Ministry of Defense said it could not comment until Monday.

During World War II, nearly 2,000 American military personnel participated in experiments conducted by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. They were often promised weekend passes and were not told the nature of the experiments, which included prolonged exposure to mustard gas and Lewisite, a chemical that contains arsenic and can damage the skin, eyes, respiratory and digestive tract.

The experiments in Rawalpindi were part of a much larger program intended to test the effects of chemical weapons on humans, the Guardian reported. It said more than 20,000 British troops were subjected to chemical warfare trials between 1916 and 1989 at the Defense Ministry's Porton Down research center in southwest England.

An inquiry into the deaths of some of those involved in the testing concluded in 2003 that there was not enough evidence for a criminal prosecution.

[Last modified September 2, 2007, 02:03:13]

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