Chemicals used in an Australian chemical attack in Afghanistan last year have been identified as belonging to the country’s elite Qatari security services.
The chemicals are said to be a type of “green herbicide” and were believed to have been used on a large scale by the Qatari forces to clear the country of insurgents in 2016.
A spokeswoman for Defence Minister Marise Payne confirmed the chemicals were from the Qajar state security forces but did not provide details.
The Qajars, a tiny Gulf state in southern Saudi Arabia, have long been targets of international criticism over their alleged role in the conflict in Afghanistan, where the country has been embroiled in a proxy war with Iran for decades.
Last month, the Australian Defence Force said it had discovered chemical agents in an area near a site where Australian troops had been using munitions for more than a year.
“Australian forces and Qatari special forces are not involved in the ongoing conflict in the Afghan war,” a statement from the Defence Department said.
It said the chemicals had been found near the Qaqa oil refinery in Kandahar province, where Australian forces were training Afghan forces and preparing for the start of the 2020 Afghan campaign.
In February, Defence Minister Payne confirmed Qatari state security agents had been involved in a chemical attack near the refinery in January.
Ms Payne also said Australian authorities were investigating whether the Qaisas were responsible for the chemical attack.
She did not specify whether Australian or Qatari officials had been directly involved.
Defence Department spokeswoman Melanie Thomas said the chemical agents were likely from the Saudi-owned Qaqas, and that the government was “aware of the investigation”.
“Qaqans are highly skilled chemical specialists, who are in a position to carry out large-scale chemical weapons attacks,” she said.
“We are very concerned about any incident that could involve the Qasas, so we are very focused on trying to get to the bottom of this.”
In a statement on Monday, the Qaqas’ state media said the incident was “extremely unfortunate and a regrettable incident”.
“We want to thank the Australian Government for its sincere concern over the incident,” it said.
The state media also confirmed that the QAQ has a long history of using chemical weapons in Afghanistan.
“In 2012, we used chemical weapons against the local population of the town of Qasr Zangri in Kandahari province,” it added.
Qasrin Qassem, an expert on Qajaris, told the ABC on Tuesday that it was “very surprising” that the chemical was used in a conflict in which there were “no restrictions”.
“I think it is really unusual for a Qajaran state to be involved in such a big conflict, but it is a very difficult situation in Afghanistan for us to see that coming up from Qajaria,” he said.
He said it was possible Qajarians had been used in previous attacks but did want to see the investigation into whether Qaisa or Qajari involvement was behind the attack.
“It is very surprising that Qaisans have been involved,” Mr Qassemi said.