Incidents 3, 4 and 5 - French Detections January 19-21, 1991

Incidents 3, 4, and 5 (Figure 6) are related by the paucity of information on any one of them, by the proximity of the locations of their occurrences, and by the lack of acknowledgement of these events by either the Czech or French governments. They are, in all likelihood, separate reports of the same possible detection, as recorded and forwarded by different units.

Incident 3: On January 19, 1991, a French unit approximately 30 kilometers from KKMC had a monitoring device indicate a presence of chemical agents. (Incident 3) Saudi authorities requested that the Czech chemical unit conduct a reconnaissance of the area. The Czechs indicated that they confirmed the presence of the nerve agent Tabun or Sarin. Tests conducted in the mobile lab determined that the concentrations were very low. According to the Defense Science Board report, the Czechs also indicated that the contaminated area was very small, approximately three square meters.[84] This report of a chemical detection is only mentioned in a timeline in the Defense Science Board report. It is not discussed in the body of the report nor is it mentioned in the CENTCOM NBC logs.

An XVIII Airborne Corps Log, however, contains an entry for January 19th at 1910 hrs (7:10 PM) that reports the "French 6 battalion reported "gas/gas/gas" on 18 Corps net." This log entry also contains a notation that, "vapor had set alarm, believe to be from CW plant that was destroyed."[85] This matches almost exactly the words in the Defense Science Board Chem/Bio timeline, except the detection is listed as occurring on January 20, 1991.

Figure 6. Kuwaiti Theater of Operations with Incidents 3-5, January 19-21, 1991

Incident 4: The CENTCOM NBC log dated 201710 Jan 91 (January 20th at 5:10pm) states:

… from ARCENT … Czech recon, DS [direct support] to French report detect GA[Tabun]/GB[Sarin] and that hazard is flowing down from factory/storage bombed in Iraq. Predictably, this has become/is going to become a problem.

The last sentence refers to the watch officers’ opinions. The watch officers were expressing their frustration over how the Czechs chose to report the detections, rather than a concern of down wind hazards caused from Coalition bombings of Iraqi chemical facilities.[86] [87] [88]

In response to the report, the CENTCOM NBC watch officer requested that US Special Forces look into the matter.[89] However, another log entry for 210520 Jan 91 (January 21 at 0520 or 5:20 AM) reports that Special Forces personnel did not detect any chemical agents in the vicinity of KKMC.[90]

An Intelligence Spot Report from January 22, 1991, reported that the French Chemical NCO reported at 8:25 AM on January 21, 1991, the "French chemical alarms activated in the French TAA. The French report finding GA [Tabun], GB [Sarin] and H blister in ‘sublethal quantities’." In the same report, the French assessed this incident to be a result of the "bombing of chemical agent storage in As Salman[91] ."

As Salman, also known as Salman Pak, was primarily a biological weapons research facility that conducted some research on chemical agents. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, CS was produced at As Salman, but in the early 1980's all military scale production of CS and other agents was moved to Al Muthanna. After the Gulf War, Iraq declared to UNSCOM that the As Salman facility was dismantled prior to the start of the Air Campaign to protect equipment from being destroyed during coalition bombing.[92] Due to the Iraqi declarations and the results of UNSCOM inspections, it is safe to say that the chemical agents the French reported did not come from the bombing of As Salman.

Incident 5: Another CENTCOM Log entry contains a report of a French detection on January 21st at 3:40 PM. This entry reported a detection near an ammunition storage facility at KKMC, and due to the frequent SCUD activity, people were getting nervous. The Czechs were called in to confirm the detection and they detected "trace quantities of ‘Tabun, Soman, Yperite’ [Mustard]." Again, fallout from Coalition bombing of Iraqi chemical facilities was theorized to be the source of the detection.[93] It is important to point out that the Iraqis had no known stores of Soman during the Gulf War.[94] The Defense Science Board timeline contains a similar entry as does a 101st Airborne journal which reports that a test by Czechs in the vicinity of KKMC confirmed the presence of Tabun, Sarin, and blister agents in sublethal quantities. Again, speculation as to the source of these chemicals pointed toward release from bombed chemical weapon facilities and bunkers.[95] Another notation in the Defense Science Board timeline states, "French at KKMC detect low level chemical agent. US chemical tests negative."[96]

Analysis of Incidents 3, 4 and 5

Investigators believe that the incidents described above are different reports of a single incident. All three incidents reported a possible presence of a combination of Sarin, Soman, Tabun, or blister agents. Also, in the reports of the three incidents the Czechs were reported to be working either in direct support of the French or they were called in to confirm the French reports. Therefore, investigators believe that it is quite possible that multiple organizations reported the same detection to CENTCOM and subordinate elements to CENTCOM at different times. The difference in reporting dates could be accounted for by considering the time involved in relaying the information through each organization’s own channels and through the various Coalition forces involved before passing the information to CENTCOM.

The only information available about these detections is contained in the various logs. An analysis of the incidents by the Defense Intelligence Agency reports that the Czechs did not file a situation report on their participation in these events of January 20-21,[97] nor was their involvement in these events included in the Ministry of Defense’s report. Therefore, little information is available to clarify the specific events surrounding these log entries. The descriptions of the incidents do not provide detail about the detection techniques and process used, therefore, it is unknown how or if a confirmation took place. Neither the French nor the Czechs reported these possible detections to Senator Shelby’s delegation during his fact finding mission. Furthermore, the detections took place in the vicinity of KKMC where troops from other Coalition countries were stationed and no other troops reported detecting chemical agents.

Although it is impossible to know on exactly what date these incidents occurred, the timing roughly corresponds with that of Incident 1. If they occurred on January 19th, as reported in the Defense Science Board timeline, Coalition bombing of Iraqi chemical facilities cannot account for these reported detections of chemical agents in the vicinity of KKMC, because the known possible releases occurred after January 19th.

As mentioned previously, the Coalition bombing on January 20, 1991, may have resulted in a release of Mustard agent from Ukhaydir. Initial modeling of the plume of Mustard agent that may have resulted from this release is projected to have extended 40 kilometers from the facility. However, the Ukhaydir facility is over 200 kilometers from the Saudi border, so the release of agents on the 20th would not have resulted in the detections if they occurred on January 20 or 21.[98]

Incident 6 - Czech Detection of Mustard January 24, 1991

On January 24, 1991, a Saudi liaison officer summoned a Czech chemical unit in KKMC to investigate a patch of discolored sand in a remote area of the desert several kilometers away from KKMC.[99] [100] (Figure 7) Under the direction of the liaison officer, the Czech specialists were led to a small area of what appeared to be wet desert soil.[101] The patch of sand measured approximately 60 centimeters by 200 centimeters.[102]

Figure 7. Kuwaiti Theater of Operations with Incident 6, January 24, 1991

The Czechs tested the content of the wet sand and determined that it contained Mustard agent. They then confirmed the detection with the PCHL-90 portable laboratory which used a complex chemical test series based on benzoic acid, phenol and other aromatic chemicals. The test confirmed the initial detection of Mustard agent.[103] Since the two different testing protocols used by the Czech indicated a positive presence of Mustard agent, the Czechs did not take a sand sample for additional testing at the mobile laboratory. Due to the extremely limited nature of the contamination, the remoteness of the site and the absence of any Coalition personnel stationed anywhere in the immediate location, the site was left without any markings.[104]

The Czechs filed a situation report with the Saudi forces, but the CENTCOM NBC logs do not contain a record of this detection. Also, this investigation has found no record of this incident ever being reported to CENTCOM. Furthermore, investigators have determined that no other units were contacted to independently confirm the presence of Mustard agent in the sand.

Analysis of Incident 6

The Czech Republic has acknowledged this incident, but they have provided few clues as to the potential source of the Mustard agent. The Czech officers at the scene of the detection stated that there were no munitions fragments, craters, or other indicators of military involvement at the site. There were also no SCUD missile alerts for this area prior to the testing of the wet patch of sand. The presence of a liquid agent, in the form of the wet patch of sand, precludes the possibility of downwind vapor contamination from the bombing of chemical facilities inside Iraq.[105] Additionally, the Czechs and the Saudis have both denied having any live chemical agents or simulants in the theater.[106] [107] Without additional information, it is impossible to determine a probable source for this isolated area of liquid Mustard contamination.

This incident has been characterized as valid by the DoD and credible in PAC testimony on May 1, 1996,[108] by members of the PGIIT and CIA. This characterization was based on the capabilities of the Czech equipment and the known processes used by the Czech personnel. However, no samples of the liquid that was detected were collected for further testing.

Incident 7 - French Detection of Nerve Agent January 24 or 25, 1991

The French reported to the Shelby delegation that on the evening of January 24 or 25, 1991, French alarms indicated the presence of nerve and blister agents at a logistics facility approximately 27 kilometers south of KKMC. (Figure 8) The French chemical alarms were activated at two locations about 100 meters apart. A French Colonel who arrived at the location about 30 minutes after the initial alarms indicated that the litmus badges on the French protective suits registered the presence of Mustard agent.[109] The French then contacted a Czech chemical unit and asked them to conduct tests to verify the presence of chemical agents. The Czech unit arrived about two hours later, and confirmed the presence of very low levels of nerve and Mustard agent.[110] It is not known whether this incident was reported to CENTCOM because the pages containing these dates are missing from the logs recovered after the war.[111]

Figure 8. Kuwaiti Theater of Operations with Incident 7, January 24-25, 1991

Analysis of Incident 7

To date, this is the only information currently available about this detection. The government of France has not disclosed information pertaining to their detection equipment or training methodologies. The French have also not provided any additional or more detailed information about this incident. Without additional information, it is impossible to determine potential sources for the nerve and blister agents detected.

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