Chemical Found in Industrial Town Awaits Lab Analysis

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 29, 2003 | Go to article overview

Chemical Found in Industrial Town Awaits Lab Analysis


Byline: Guy Taylor, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

TIKRIT, Iraq - Military officials here said they did not know if tests on the contents of a 55-gallon drum found near a small industrial town in central Iraq yielded conclusive positive results for chemical weapons or agents used to make them.

U.S. troops discovered the suspicious drum of clear, odorless liquid among a batch of 14 over the weekend near Baiji, about 115 miles north of Baghdad, military officials said.

Lt. Col. Valentin Novikov, chemical officer of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, said initial tests yielded positive results for the nerve agent cyclosarin and a blister agent.

A second round of tests conducted by specialists in nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, using an M93-A1 Fox testing vehicle, also turned up positive results for a nerve agent, but it was not clear what type.

On Sunday, Col. Novikov said that a mobile exploitation team would need to go to the site of the drums to take samples that would be sent to four laboratories around the world. Conclusive scientific results, he said, could be expected in two or three days.

But on Sunday night Capt. Brian Cutchin, leader of Mobile Exploitation Team Bravo, told the New York Times that after surveying the pile of 55-gallon drums, his team's tests showed "no positive hits at all" for chemical agents.

Col. Novikov and Lt. Col. Bill McDonald, 4th Infantry spokesman, said they still were waiting for a report from the team.

"I don't know definitively whether the samples were taken yet," said Col. Novikov, adding that the exploitation team "suspects that it might be rocket fuel."

While they stress that initial field tests on chemicals are not always accurate, being designed to err on the side of caution to protect soldiers in combat, both colonels said the tests were positive for a nerve agent.

"All I can tell you is that the test, the very basic tests, came up positive," Col. McDonald said. "The only way that you're going to know for sure is from a lab."

Col. Novikov said Capt. Cutchin's assessment of the scene "could be right."

"They're supposed to submit a report, and my office would get a copy of it," he said.

Nerve agents were developed after World War I for military use as more toxic forms of insecticides. …

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