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Weapons of Mass Destruction Elusive - 2003-03-31

A big part of Operation Iraqi Freedom is to search out and destroy Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. Weapons Baghdad says it doesn’t have.

U.S. and British forces have been scouring various parts of the country but so far coalition forces have not discovered stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons. VOA-TV’s Chris Simkins has more on the story.

U.S. Special forces search a suspected terrorist training camp in Northeastern Iraq for weapons of mass destruction. U.S. military officials say the camp, which was largely destroyed in fighting last week, may have been used to produce the lethal poison Ricin.

U.S. commanders say it was run by a Ansar al-Islam, a militant Islamic group U.S. officials say has ties to the al-Qaida terror network.

When soldiers raided the site they were hoping to capture some of the fighters to get information.

We were not able to capture many POW’s because as we would close in on them they would detonate explosive on their bodies or kill themselves with a grenade.

After the raid a specialized biochemical team scoured the rubble for samples. They wore protective masks as they entered a building they suspected to be a weapons lab. Inside they found mortar shells, and medical supplies.

What they didn’t find was evidence of Iraq’s banned weapons. So far tests at other suspected chemical or biological weapons sites in Northern Iraq have been inconclusive.

Since the war began thousands of coalition soldiers have been searching for weapons of mass destruction. They haven’t found any yet.

What they have been finding mostly are large stockpiles of guns, mortars and ammunition. They also find chemical protection gear, gas masks, and supplies of Atropine, an antidote for nerve gas. U.S. officials say the evidence proves Iraq has chemical or biological weapons.

Brigadier General Vincent Brooks says coalition forces don’t know if Iraqi forces would use those kinds of weapons but they are doing things to prevent that from happening.

By attacking the systems that would deliver it when we find them and the places where they might be stored. At the same time seeking additional information of, where might they be, who know and what can we do about it. So those actions are ongoing and we have to wait and see what is going to happen.

In Southern Iraq, Marines spend hours searching another complex for chemical weapons. What they find is conventional weapons, more gas masks and biological protection suits.

Any site that might store weapons while we are attacking through we are going to check it out. And this was known to be a suspected weapons of mass destruction site.

Saddam Hussein has denied Iraq has chemical or biological weapons. However U.S. military officials say they expect to find some as coalition troops broaden their search throughout the country, and especially as they get closer to Baghdad.