WASHINGTON April 7 —
The U.S. military is testing samples from a site in Iraq where
soldiers found possible chemical weapons, defense officials said
Testing at laboratories in the United States has to be completed
before the presence of chemical weapons could be confirmed, the
officials said. Soldiers from the Army's 101st Airborne Division
found the suspicious material in a compound near the Iraqi city of
Hindiyah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad.
A Knight Ridder News Service journalist traveling with the unit
said initial tests of samples from the facility were inconsistent.
Some tests did not indicate chemical weapons, while others indicated
the presence of G-class nerve agents which include sarin and tabun
and mustard agent, a blistering chemical first used in World War
The Knight Ridder reporter, Tom Lasseter, also reported that he
and several soldiers were decontaminated after some of the soldiers
felt ill while searching the compound. Officials at the Pentagon
said they did not have any information about anyone getting
If the discovery was confirmed, it would be the first find of
chemical weapons during the war. Finding and eliminating Saddam
Hussein's chemical and biological weapons is a goal of the U.S.-led
invasion of Iraq, and finding such weapons of mass destruction could
mute international criticism of the war.
Iraq acknowledged making tons of sarin, tabun, mustard and other
chemical weapons. Iraq used mustard and sarin against Iran during
the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and is believed to have used the chemicals
against Kurdish Iraqis.
Sarin and tabun are related nerve agents that can kill when
absorbed through the skin or inhaled as a gas. They kill by causing
convulsions, paralysis and asphyxiation.
Mustard agent begins dissolving tissues on contact and is
particularly harmful to eyes and lungs. It does not usually kill but
causes painful injuries that can linger for a lifetime.
|US Gen. Tommy Franks, right,
commander of the US central command, shakes hand with soldiers
of the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division during a
short visit in An-Najaf, Iraq, Monday, April 7, 2003. (AP
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