At the first site, troops reportedly found thousands of boxes of full vials, along with manuals on chemical warfare. They also found atropine, used to counter the effects of nerve agents.
According to Col. John Peabody, engineer brigade commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, the materials were discovered at the Latifiya Explosives and Ammunition Plant al Qa Qaa, about 25 miles south of Baghdad.
The plant was on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s list of suspected sites for WMD production, and U.N. inspectors had visited the facility as recently as February 18. U.S. jets bombed the plant during the 1991 Gulf War.
Captain Kevin Jackson told Reuters, “It’s unclear at this point what the vials contain and we’re sending a team of experts to examine them.”
According to Reuters, there were reports that troops had uncovered similar materials at a nearby facility.
In Washington, a senior U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press that the material tested thus far suggested explosives rather than weapons of mass destruction.
“Initial reports are that the material is probably just explosives, but we’re still going through the place,” the official said.
In a press briefing at U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks said special forces have also discovered what they believe to be a nuclear, biological and chemical warfare training school.
Brooks said troops uncovered a bottle labeled “tabun” at the site, which is located in Iraq’s western desert. Tabun is a nerve agent the U.S. government believes Iraq may have been used in its war with Iran from 1980-1988.
“In that particular site, we believe that was the only sample,” he said. “That’s why we believe it was a training site. Our conclusion is that this was not a WMD site…it proved to be far less than that.”
Since the United States and Britain launched a military offensive against Iraq, they have not uncovered firm evidence that Saddam Hussein has been hiding chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.
During an April 1 televised statement, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said the coalition might plant weapons of mass destruction and blame Iraq for their presence.
“The aggressors may themselves intend to bring those materials to plant them here and say those are weapons of mass destruction,” he said.
Central Command released photos of one site showing shelves of brown bottles with yellow labels. Brooks said troops did not understand some of the labels and weapons experts were currently examining the contents.