Friday, October 29, 2004

The NYTimes > Washington > Missing Explosives: Video Shows G.I.'s at Weapon Cache

The New York Times > Washington > Missing Explosives: Video Shows G.I.'s at Weapon Cache:
"A videotape made by a television crew with American troops when they opened bunkers at a sprawling Iraqi munitions complex south of Baghdad shows a huge supply of explosives still there nine days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, apparently including some sealed earlier by the International Atomic Energy Agency."

The videotape , taken by KSTP-TV, an ABC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul, shows troops breaking into a bunker and opening boxes and examining barrels. Many of the containers are marked "explosive." One box is marked "Al Qaqaa State Establishment," apparently a shipping label from a manufacturer.

The ABC crew said the video was taken on April 18. The timing is critical to the debate in the presidential campaign. By the Pentagon's own account, units of the 101st Airborne Division were near Al Qaqaa for what Mr. DiRita said was "two to three weeks," starting April 10.


The tape, broadcast on Wednesday night by the ABC affiliate in Minneapolis, appeared to confirm a warning given earlier this month to the agency by Iraqi officials, who said that hundreds of tons of high-grade explosives, powerful enough to bring down buildings or detonate nuclear weapons, had vanished from the site after the invasion of Iraq.

The question of whether the material was removed by Mr. Hussein's forces in the days before the invasion, or looted later because it was unguarded, has become a heated dispute on the campaign trail, with Senator John Kerry accusing President Bush of incompetence, and Mr. Bush saying it is unclear when the material disappeared and rejecting what he calls Mr. Kerry's "wild charges."

Weapons experts familiar with the work of the international inspectors in Iraq say the videotape appears identical to photographs that the inspectors took of the explosives, which were put under seal before the war. One frame shows what the experts say is a seal, with narrow wires that would have to be broken if anyone entered through the main door of the bunker.

The agency said that when it left Iraq in mid-March, only days before the war began, the only bunkers bearing its seals at the huge complex contained the explosive known as HMX, which the agency had monitored because it could be used in a nuclear weapons program. It is now clear that program had ground to a halt.

The New York Times and CBS reported on Monday that Iraqi officials had told the agency earlier this month that the explosives were missing, and that they were looted after April 9, 2003, the day Baghdad fell.

Yesterday evening, the Pentagon released a satellite image of the complex taken just two days after the inspectors left, showing a few trucks parked in front of some bunkers. It is not clear they are the bunkers with the high explosives.

"All we are trying to demonstrate is that after the I.A.E.A. left, and the place was under Saddam's control, there was activity," said Lawrence DiRita, the Pentagon spokesman. It is not clear from the photo what activity, if any, was under way.

On Thursday, a top Iraqi official said the interim government had spoken to witnesses who said the material was still at Al Qaqaa at the time Baghdad fell.

The videotape , taken by KSTP-TV, an ABC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul, shows troops breaking into a bunker and opening boxes and examining barrels. Many of the containers are marked "explosive." One box is marked "Al Qaqaa State Establishment," apparently a shipping label from a manufacturer.

The ABC crew said the video was taken on April 18. The timing is critical to the debate in the presidential campaign. By the Pentagon's own account, units of the 101st Airborne Division were near Al Qaqaa for what Mr. DiRita said was "two to three weeks," starting April 10.


http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/29/politics/29bomb.html?pagewanted=all&position=
con·cept: The NYTimes > Washington > Missing Explosives: Video Shows G.I.'s at Weapon Cache