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March 23, 2003
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US troops find chemical weapons plant 90 miles from Baghdad

The Jerusalem Post (www.jpost.com) reports that an American military unit has found a chemical weapons plant 90 miles from Baghdad:

About 30 Iraqi troops, including a general, surrendered today to US forces of the 3rd Infantry Division as they overtook huge installation apparently used to produce chemical weapons in An Najaf, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of Baghdad.

One soldier was lightly wounded when a booby-trapped explosive went off as he was clearing the sheet metal-lined chemical weapons production facility.

The huge 100-acre complex, which is surrounded by a electrical fence, is perhaps the first illegal chemical plant to be uncovered by US troops in their current mission in Iraq. The surrounding barracks resemble an abandoned slum.

It wasn't immediately clear exactly which chemicals were being produced here, but clearly the Iraqis tried to camouflage the facility so it could not be photographed aerially, by swathing it in sand-cast walls to make it look like the surrounding desert.

The US military has done in a couple of days what Hans Blix (a.k.a "Mr. Magoo") and the UN couldn't do in years. Thank God we didn't listen to France. I copy the full article below.

US TROOPS CAPTURE CHEMICAL PLANT
By CAROLINE GLICK, Mar. 23, 2003
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?
pagename=JPost/A/JPArticle/
ShowFull&cid=1048389503299

About 30 Iraqi troops, including a general, surrendered today to US forces of the 3rd Infantry Division as they overtook huge installation apparently used to produce chemical weapons in An Najaf, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of Baghdad.

Asked to confirm 's exclusive coverage of this development, US Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, Deputy Commander of Central Command, told reporters: "I'm not going to confirm that report, but we have one or two generals officers who are providing us with information."

One soldier was lightly wounded when a booby-trapped explosive went off as he was clearing the sheet metal-lined chemical weapons production facility.

The huge 100-acre complex, which is surrounded by a electrical fence, is perhaps the first illegal chemical plant to be uncovered by US troops in their current mission in Iraq. The surrounding barracks resemble an abandoned slum.

It wasn't immediately clear exactly which chemicals were being produced here, but clearly the Iraqis tried to camouflage the facility so it could not be photographed aerially, by swathing it in sand-cast walls to make it look like the surrounding desert.

Within minutes of our entry into the camp on Sunday afternoon, at least 30 Iraqi soldiers and their commanding officer of the rank of General, obeyed the instructions of US soldiers who called out from our jeep in loudspeakers for them to lie down on the ground, and put their hands above their heads to surrender.

Today's operation is the third engagement with Iraqi forces by the First Brigade of the US army's 3rd Infantry Division, since Saturday afternoon.

So far in the campaign, the brigade has suffered no losses. But two were wounded Saturday night in an ambush on the outskirts of As-Samwah in southern Iraq.

The US battlefield success was tempered by pictures shown on Arab television of bodies in US uniforms lying in a makeshift Iraqi morgue and of prisoners being interviewed who were said to be Americans.

Before the graphic scenes were shown on Qatar's Al-Jazeera television, Iraq's vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, claimed his forces had taken allied prisoners of war and would show them on TV.

The station said the prisoners were captured around Nasiriyah, a major crossing point over the Euphrates River 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad that was seized by the US Army Saturday. It said the film footage came from Iraqi television.

In another unsettling incident for the US -led coalition, British officials confirmed that a Royal Air Force Tornado aircraft was shot down accidentally Sunday by US Patriot missile near the Kuwaiti-Iraq border while returning from a mission. The aircraft's crew was missing; details about those on board were not disclosed.

"This is a tragedy and we are taking rapid steps to ensure there is no repetition," said Group Capt. Al Lockwood, a spokesman for British forces.

In their drive to Baghdad, US and British forces captured territory, towns and military installations, often with little or no opposition. But in some locations, Iraqi forces fought back with artillery fire or guerrilla-style counterattacks.

Coalition troops were still trying to mop up resistance at the main Gulf port of Umm Qasr so it could be used for humanitarian shipments. They engaged in street-to-street battles against guerrillas, including paramilitary fighters of the Baath party.

Television footage of the Umm Qasr fighting was broadcast worldwide, and Iraqi officials hailed the resistance as proof coalition troops could be repelled.

Near the Gulf, Marines seized an Iraqi naval base Sunday morning at Az Zubayr. In the command center, Marines found half-eaten bowls of rice and other still-warm food.

In Baghdad, a series of air raid sirens and explosions were heard on the outskirts of the city at midmorning Sunday. A cloud of smoke hung over the capital; residents believed it was created in part by fires set to conceal targets from bombardment.

Iraqi television reported that Saddam Hussein's home town, Tikrit, had been bombed several times.

Posted by David Melle at March 23, 2003 06:08 PM
Comments

Those reports are unconfirmed as of this writing. Fox, which was reporting it, later issued a correction.

U.S. Central Command said in a statement that troops were examining "sites of interest," but did not elaborate. The statement said reports describing the discovery as a chemical weapons factory were "premature."

Posted by: colin brayton on March 23, 2003 07:36 PM

The British media has now reported that no evidence of chemical weapons was found here. Let's hope that's good news.

Posted by: Sean on March 25, 2003 04:52 AM
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(According to digits.com)