UNSCOM Inspection Findings
A May 1996 UNSCOM inspection of the An Nasiriyah SW ASP provided valuable insights as to activities at this facility in the January - February 1991 time period. Due to the importance of these events, several paragraphs of this trip report are quoted:
4. An Nasiriyah Storage Depot. The purpose of the inspection of An Nasiriyah was to document events surrounding the receipt, storage, and removal of approximately 6,000 Iraqi HD [mustard] munitions moved to An Nasiriyah in the mid 910100 [January 1991] time frame. The inspection team observed that 12 to 14 bunkers were in use at this site, 22 had been destroyed by coalition bombing, and over 20 had been destroyed by occupation forces.
4B. The inspection teams discussion with the Iraqi representatives centered around the delivery, storage, and movement of HD munitions from Al Muthanna [Samarra] to this site in 910100 [January 1991], specifically the following:
- Approximately 6, 000 munitions were moved from Al Muthanna [Sammara] to An Nasiriyah between 910110 [January 10, 1991] and 910115 [January 15, 1991]. (Figure 2) The munitions were placed in Iraqi bunker number eight//geocoord: 305815.9N0461015.3E//. (Figure 3) Also in bunker eight there were a relatively small number of 120mm HE mortar rounds and 7.9mm ball small arms ammunition.
- The munitions were removed from bunker eight and An Nasiriyah over a one week period around 910215 [February 15, 1991] and placed in an open area near Khamisiyah (Tal Al Lahm)//geocoord: 304605.3N 0462276.1E//. The inspection team examined this site and discovered no evidence of remaining munitions of any type. There is, however, a recently constructed canal adjacent to the dump site.
In addition to Bunker 8, the UNSCOM inspection team investigated other bunkers at An Nasiriyah SW, including the remains of the S-shaped bunker and the four 12-frame bunkers. The inspectors found no evidence of CW or BW storage in any of these bunkers. They determined that the 12-frame bunkers were built and used for storage of sensitive explosives, e.g., detonation charges, detonators, TNT, etc. At the end of the inspection, and after comparing Iraqs declarations in their CW Full, Final, and Complete Disclosure with the on-site evidence, the inspectors concluded that:
In summary, there was no indication that there are currently CW munitions stored at this site. Furthermore, there is no evidence, either physical or as a result of discussions with Iraqi representatives, that there were CW munitions indicated here in addition to those 6,000 HD [mustard 155m artillery] munitions indicated above.
Figure 9. UNSCOM photo of 155mm mustard shells near the Khamisiyah ASP
Based on Iraqi CW declarations, UNSCOM inspections, and a review of national level intelligence sources, it is likely that more than 6,000 155mm artillery shells filled with mustard agent were present at the An Nasiriyah SW ASP from about January 15 to approximately February 15, 1991. According to the May 1996, UNSCOM inspection report, these munitions were transported to this ASP just prior to the start of the coalition air campaign on January 17, 1991, and remained there while approximately 20 munition storage bunkers in this facility were attacked, seriously damaged, and/or destroyed by aerial munitions. According to the Iraqis, the munitions were stored in a bunker that was not attacked during the air campaign. There is no evidence, such as indications of decontamination activity, to suggest that a release of chemical agent occurred at An Nasiriyah during the air campaign. Also, when US forces occupied this facility during the cease-fire, the multiple CW testing methodologies used at this facility - to include M256 kits, CAMs, and Fox reconnaissance vehicles - would have detected gross mustard contamination. That such contamination was not detected would confirm that these rounds were stored in a facility (or possibly an open area) that was not targeted and attacked by coalition aerial munitions. Iraq declared that these munitions were removed from this ASP around February 15, 1991, and stored in the open approximately 5 km west of the Khamisiyah ASP. The UNSCOM inspected both storage sites, these munitions, and the circumstances in which they were transported. This investigation turned up no evidence that contradicts the UNSCOM conclusion on the transport and storage of these 155mm mustard filled artillery shells.
It is unlikely that other types of CW munitions were stored at this ASP, either during the air campaign or the post war cease-fire occupation. Since this ASP and its special bunkers were bombed by coalition aircraft during the first day of the air campaign, the Iraqis almost certainly realized that this facility was high on the coalition list of targeting priorities and that any CW in storage there was at risk. All of the bunkers that the IC associated with CW or BW storage were struck, seriously damaged, or destroyed by February 3, 1991. Post-war Iraqi CW declarations and UNSCOM CW inspections indicate that Iraq initially stored 155mm mustard rounds in standard bunkers, and later, due to the air threat, out in the open near Khamisiyah. Had Iraq stored other CW or BW munitions at An Nasiriyah, it is likely that they would have been removed along with the relocated 155mm mustard artillery shells.
Interviews with CW technicians who performed search operations with specialized testing equipment including Fox vehicles, CAMs, and M256 kits did not discover chemical weapons. EOD personnel, who are trained to identify CW by its physical characteristics, inventoried bunkers to identify munition types and quantities, and did not find CW. Due to the overwhelming quantities of munitions to be destroyed at this ASP, combat engineers assisted EOD in rigging munitions and bunkers for demolition. They did not find any CW. For 5 weeks, US troops conducted demolition operations at this ASP (from March 2 to April 7, 1991), without wearing Mission Oriented Protective Posture protective gear, yet none reported or sought medical attention for symptoms of blister or nerve agent exposure.
It must be noted however, that despite the dedication and technical expertise of the personnel conducting these searches, time and manpower constraints precluded a 100 percent thorough search of every bunker or every open storage revetment in this ASP. Conducting this type of search would have required that every bunker be emptied and every munition container opened. This was not done. The most expedient method entailed opening a random sample of munition containers, identifying the munition type, and multiplying this type by the observed quantity. This method was reasonably accurate but was less than 100 percent reliable.
Due to the limitations of BW sampling technology in the Desert Shield/Storm time period, an effective search for BW weapons was not conducted at this ASP. The primary BW testing system used by the 9th Chemical Company was too large to be easily transported to this ASP, and was not taken on the March 6, 1991, BW sampling mission. While the soil samples taken did not indicate contamination by known BW agents, the area surveyed covered only a small fraction of the total area of this facility. However, there are two factors that greatly mitigate this observation. First, almost an entire month prior to the US occupation, all four of the 12-frame refrigerated storage bunkers were struck and severely damaged or destroyed by aerial munitions. Any BW stored in these four bunkers would have been exposed to the environment for almost a month, with readily observable health effects on the local Iraqi populace, livestock, and US troops. Second, the effects of BW agents thought to be in the Iraqi inventory at that time have well known characteristics that can be readily and positively identified by medical testing procedures. No incidents of BW related illnesses or deaths were identified at this location during the war. Positive samples of one type of potential BW agent, anthrax, were identified during the Desert Shield/Storm time period, but were taken in areas associated with sheep grazing areas, where it can naturally occur. Based on these facts, it is unlikely that BW agents or munitions were present during the US occupation.
In summary, while the munition identification and inventory process and CW/BW testing methods at this ASP were less than textbook, given the circumstances, gross CW or BW related contamination from US air strikes or ground demolition operations should and probably would have been detected. Based on the interviews, the results of UNSCOM inspections of this facility, Iraqs CW Full, Final, and Complete Disclosure, and a review of theater operational reports and national intelligence reporting, it is "Unlikely" that CW, BW, or bulk chemical agents were present in this complex while it was occupied by US forces. Also, based on inspections by US and UNSCOM and on sampling by US personnel, the release of chemical agents due to bombing is also "Unlikely."
This case is still being investigated. As additional information becomes available, it will be incorporated. If you have records, photographs, recollections, or find errors in the details reported, please contact the DoD Persian Gulf Task Force Hot Line at 1-800-472-6719.
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