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Saddam’s Mobile Biological Weapons Labs Found

WASHINGTON, DC, May 28, 2003 (ENS) - A new Central Intelligence Agency report says that three mobile laboratory facilities uncovered by coalition forces in Iraq provide "the strongest evidence to date" that Iraq had a biological warfare program and made substantial efforts to hide it.

The report, issued today by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), details the discoveries of the mobile laboratory facilities, which were designed to be used in the manufacture of biological weapons for the regime of Saddam Hussein.

In April, Kurdish forces seized a specialized tractor-trailer near Mosul, which was turned over to U.S. military control. The CIA report said the design, equipment, and layout of the trailer was "strikingly similar to descriptions" provided by an Iraqi chemical engineer who had managed one of the mobile plants that was used for the production of biological weapons (BW).

trailer

American forces examine a probable mobile biological weapons production trailer found near Mosul. (Photo courtesy CIA)
Iraq manufactured mobile trailers and railcars to produce biological agents, which were designed to evade United Nations weapons inspectors, the engineer said. Agent production reportedly occurred Thursday night through Friday when the United Nations did not conduct inspections in observance of the Muslim holy day.

The engineer said that an accident occurred in 1998 during a production run, which killed 12 technicians - an indication that Iraq was producing a biological weapons agent at that time.

In May, the report says, a second mobile facility was discovered by U.S. forces at the al-Kindi Research, Testing, Development, and Engineering facility in Mosul.

"Although this second trailer appears to have been looted, the remaining equipment, including the fermenter, is in a configuration similar to the first plant," the report said.

In addition, U.S. forces found a mobile laboratory truck in Baghdad in late April, which the report described as a toxicology laboratory from the 1980s that could be used to support BW production or legitimate research."

lab

Interior view of the trailer showing the fermentor, media tank, water supply tanks and gas cylinders (Photo courtesy CIA)
"Analysis of the trailers reveals that they probably are second or possibly third generation designs of the plants described by the source," the report said. "The newer version includes system improvements, such as cooling units, apparently engineered to solve production problems described by the source that were encountered with the older design."

The manufacturer's plates on the fermenters list production dates of 2002 and 2003, indicating Iraq produced these units as late as this year, the report said.

"We have investigated what other industrial processes may require such equipment - a fermenter, refrigeration, and a gas capture system - and agree with the experts that BW agent production is the only consistent, logical purpose for these vehicles," the CIA report says.

The CIA says American scientists continue to examine the trailer found in mid-April and are using advanced sample analysis techniques to determine whether BW agent is present, "although we do not expect samples to show the presence of BW agent."

"We suspect that the Iraqis thoroughly decontaminated the vehicle to remove evidence of BW agent production. Despite the lack of confirmatory samples, we nevertheless are confident that this trailer is a mobile BW production plant because of the source's description, equipment, and design," the agency said.

Senior Iraqi officials of the al-Kindi Research, Testing, Development, and Engineering facility in Mosul were shown pictures of the mobile production trailers, and they claimed that the trailers were used to chemically produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. The CIA report says that hydrogen production would be a plausible cover story for the mobile production units.

The CIA report is available online at: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/iraqi_mobile_plants/index.html



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