2nd Site With U.N.-Sealed Arms Was Looted, Inspectors Report * Chemical Shells May Be Missing
- New York Times
October 31, 2004
2nd Site With U.N.-Sealed Arms Was Looted, Inspectors
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Looters overran an Iraqi complex last year where a
bunker holding old chemical weapons was sealed by
United Nations monitors, American arms inspectors have
The American inspectors say all of the sealed
structures at the Muthanna site, 35 miles northwest of
Baghdad, were broken into. But it is unknown if usable
chemical warheads were in the bunker, what may have
been taken and by whom.
"Clearly, there's a potential concern, but we're
unable to estimate the relative level of it because we
don't know the condition of the things inside the
bunker," said Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for the United
Nations arms inspection agency, whose specialists have
been barred from Iraq since the invasion.
In a lengthy Oct. 6 report summarizing a fruitless
search for banned weapons in Iraq, the inspectors
known as the Iraq Survey Group disclosed that
widespread looting occurred at Muthanna after the fall
of the Iraqi capital in April 2003.
An annex of the 985-page report said every United
Nations-sealed location at the desert installation had
been breached in the looting spree, and "materials and
equipment were removed."
Bunker 2 at Muthanna State Establishment, once Iraq's
central chemical weapons production site, was put
under the control of the United Nations in early 1991
after it was damaged by an American bomb in the
Persian Gulf war. At the time, Iraq said 2,500
sarin-filled artillery rockets had been stored there.
The United Nations teams sealed the bunker with brick
and reinforced concrete, rather than immediately
attempt the risky job of clearing weapons or remnants
from under a collapsed roof and neutralizing them.
A C.I.A. analysis hypothesized in 1999 that all the
sarin must have been destroyed by fire. But a United
States General Accounting Office review last June
questioned that analysis, and the United Nations,
whose teams were there, said the extent of destruction
was never determined.
One chemical weapons expert said even old, weakened
nerve agents - in this case sarin - could be a threat
to unprotected civilians.
The weapons involved would be pre-1991 artillery
rockets filled with sarin, or their damaged remnants -
weapons that were openly declared by Iraq and were
under United Nations control until security fell apart
with the American attack.
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