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Saddam moved chemical weapons


Published 10/21/2001

LONDON Saddam Hussein has relocated his chemical weapons factories after the first case of anthrax poisoning in the United States in apparent anticipation of an imminent bombardment by the U.S.-led coalition.

A senior Western intelligence official said that since the death of British-born picture editor Bob Stevens in Florida on Oct. 5, there has been a "mass movement of weapons" to protected "no-go" areas in the north, northwest and west of the country. "The entire contents of their chemical weapons factories around Baghdad have been moving through the nights to specially built bunkers," he said.

Before the Sept. 11 attacks, the Iraqi dictator had put his troops on high alert, but little was done at the time to move crucial weaponry. When the Pentagon said it was investigating the possibility that Iraq might not only have been involved in the assault on the New York towers but may also have been behind the anthrax attacks in the United States, Iraq began moving its chemical weapons factories, the intelligence officer said.

Western intelligence officers said yesterday that the northeast region of Hemrin was the center of most activity. Saddam ordered his troops to dig 60-foot-deep holes in the area and to bury chemical and biological cargo arriving from the capital. Six pits have been dug. Meanwhile, factories which make missiles and chemical weapons have been relocated to the areas of Baiji and al Safar in the northwest, they said.

"These are heavily protected no-go areas with massive infrastructure," one said. "They have everything bunkers, sophisticated communications systems and living quarters for the military and senior intelligence officers."

Scott Ritter, a former U.N. weapons inspector between 1991 and 1998, cautioned against blaming Iraq for the attacks. He said that while it was true that the regime "had not fully complied with its disarmament obligation, particularly in the field of biological weapons," the failure did not "equate to a retained biological weapons capability." He said accusations that Iraq is the source of the anthrax were unsubstantiated and irresponsible.

In a further sign of preparation for eventual conflict, Izzet Douri, one of Iraq's vice presidents, last week ordered a conference of 300 Islamic clerics to issue a fatwa, or religious order, denouncing the United States and Britain and defending the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 21, 2001

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