This investigation concerns the possible presence of chemical warfare agents, chemical weapons, and biological weapons at Iraq’s An Nasiriyah Southwest Ammunition Storage Point during and immediately after the Gulf War. The proximity of this ammunition storage point to Tallil Air Base and the fact that many of the same units conducted similar operations at both installations make this investigation a continuation of the Tallil investigation, which we published on November 13, 1997, and updated on May 22, 2000

This munitions storage facility, located south of the city of An Nasiriyah and the Euphrates River, consisted of two separately fenced storage areas. The western storage area, which stored primarily army ammunition, contained over 100 concrete storage bunkers, storage buildings, and open storage revetments. The eastern storage area, which primarily stored air force munitions, contained a smaller number of similar storage bunkers, buildings, and open revetments. During the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, this installation was a major Iraqi ammunition depot. During 1990-1991, the US intelligence community suspected this ammunition storage point contained chemical or biological weapon munitions. By the beginning of the Gulf War, the intelligence community had associated certain types of Iraq’s ammunition storage bunkers, including what analysts dubbed "S-shaped" and "12-frame" bunkers, with chemical and biological weapons storage. The An Nasiriyah Southwest Ammunition Storage Point had one S-shaped bunker and four 12-frame, refrigerated bunkers. All five of these bunkers were struck by air-delivered ordnance and by February 3, 1991, had been either heavily damaged or destroyed. During the post-war US occupation and demolition, no chemical or biological weapons were found at this facility, nor was any agent contamination detected in the ammunition storage area. An analysis of post-war information, including information from inspections by the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq, indicates that during Desert Storm Iraq stored chemical and biological weapons in more places than the S-shaped and 12-frame bunkers, including in the open where the weapons were less likely to be damaged by Coalition bombing. Today, the US intelligence community believes many of its pre-war assessments of suspected chemical and biological weapon bunkers were inaccurate and that Iraq probably did not use the five S-shaped and 12-frame bunkers at An Nasiriyah Southwest to store chemical or biological weapons during Desert Storm.

In 1996, in accordance with United Nations Resolution 687, Iraq declared that it had stored in a bunker at An Nasiriyah Southwest, from approximately January 15 to February 15, 1991, more than 6,000 155mm mustard-filled artillery rounds, which in 1991 it had showed to United Nations inspectors in an open area 5 kilometers to the west of the Khamisiyah Ammunition Storage Point. Iraq claims these munitions were moved to prevent destruction by Coalition air strikes. To date, the United Nations Special commission’s inspections, interviews, and other research support this declaration. These 155mm mustard rounds are the only chemical weapons likely to have been stored at the An Nasiriyah Southwest Ammunition Storage Point during the air campaign. Bunker 8, which Iraq declared had held the munitions, was not one of the five bunkers suspected of chemical or biological weapons storage and was not targeted or damaged by Coalition bombing. US ground forces, including explosive ordnance disposal personnel and chemical warfare agent specialists, searched the ASP and destroyed bunkers, buildings, and munitions before US troops withdrew. The search revealed no chemical or biological weapons.

In March 1991, while identifying munitions and fragments near this storage point, explosive ordnance disposal personnel located a damaged munition with some chemical weapon characteristics. They immediately departed the area and reported the sighting to higher headquarters. A Fox nuclear, biological, and chemical reconnaissance vehicle checked the munition and the surrounding area for the presence of chemical agents and found no evidence of chemical warfare agents. The senior 60th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment member present at the scene provided photos of this damaged munition to the investigation.

After the war the 9th Chemical Detachment participated in a biological weapons sampling mission at the An Nasiriyah Southwest Ammunition Storage Point. Four of the veterans interviewed for this investigation were Black Hawk helicopter crew members who supported this sampling mission on March 6, 1991. The Black Hawk crew chief observed artillery shells leaking unidentified material and recalled that the sampling team members burned their chemical protective suits at the completion of the mission. This led the crew chief to believe the crew may have been exposed to chemical warfare agents. Interviews with three of the biological warfare agent sampling team members indicate they tested for chemical warfare agents with M256 kits and collected soil samples for laboratory analysis. The sampling team collected five samples: melted liquid from an artillery shell, liquid from a different artillery shell, and three soil samples from two different bunker sites in the ammunition storage point. These samples tested negative for biological-weapons-associated substances, and the team did not report any positive M256 kit detections. The 513th Military Intelligence Brigade chemical officer, who led this sampling team, said that the aircrew asked them to burn their chemical protective gear before departure to avoid any potential contamination of the helicopter.

Interviews with explosive ordnance disposal experts, chemical weapon technicians, and engineers involved in demolition operations at the An Nasiriyah Southwest Ammunition Storage Point failed to uncover evidence of the presence of either chemical or biological-filled weapons. For five weeks from March 2 to April 7, 1991, US troops conducted demolition operations at this installation without wearing chemical protective gear, yet no one reported or sought medical attention for symptoms of blister or nerve agent exposure.

Based on these interviews; the results of the United Nations Special Commission inspections of this facility; all of Iraq’s Chemical Full, Final, and Complete Disclosures; and a review of theater operational reports and national intelligence reporting, it is likely chemical weapons were present during Desert Shield before the US occupation, but unlikely chemical weapons, biological weapons, or bulk chemical agents were present in this complex during the US occupation. Given the inspections by the US and United Nations and the results of the sampling conducted by US personnel, the release of chemical warfare agents due to Coalition bombing also is unlikely.

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