Report: U.S. troops
exposed to nerve gas
Dozens of soldiers undergo testing as Army lab detects sarin biotoxin
Posted: April 7, 2003
1:00 a.m. Eastern
More than a dozen U.S. soldiers have been evacuated from an Iraqi military compound after tests by a mobile laboratory confirmed evidence of deadly sarin nerve gas, reports Knight Ridder News Service.
According to the report, members of the Army's 101st Airborne Division had been sent earlier for chemical-weapons decontamination after exhibiting symptoms of possible exposure to nerve agents.
A day of testing brought initial results of positive exposure, then negative; but a third round of sampling by an Army Fox mobile nuclear, biological and chemical detection laboratory confirmed the existence of sarin.
Sgt. Todd Ruggles, a biochem expert with the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne told Knight Ridder "I was right" that chemical agents Iraq has denied having were present.
Not only were soldiers sent for decontamination, but a CNN cameraman, a Knight Ridder reporter, and two Iraqi POWs were reportedly hosed down with water and bleach.
The suspect chemicals were discovered at two sites: an agricultural warehouse loaded with 55-gallon chemical drums, and a military compound.
Soldiers who were guarding the military compound reportedly began vomiting, and experienced dizziness and skin blotches – all symptoms of exposure to small amounts of nerve agent.
Knight Ridder says chemical tests in the warehouse "came back positive for so-called G-Series nerve agents, which include sarin and tabun, both of which Iraq has been known to possess."
Hundreds of gas masks and chemical suits were also discovered, as well as a cache of ammunition.
Sarin, considered one of the most caustic nerve agents, can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
Those who tested positive were isolated, while the others were evacuated. Within an hour, those believed to have been exposed were hosed down by water trucks as troops lathered themselves with detergent and bleach.
"We do think there's stuff in this compound and the other (agricultural warehouse) compound, but we think it's buried," Elena Aravjo, a first lieutenant with the 63rd Chemical Company told Knight Ridder. "I'm really suspicious of both of those compounds."
The ranking officers, including Col. Joseph Anderson, Brig. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley and Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, made no official comment about suspected nerve agents.
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