Tests confirm presence of sarin in artillery shell in Iraq: Pentagon
May 26, 2004
Comprehensive testing has confirmed that a 155mm artillery shell discovered in Iraq earlier this month contained the deadly nerve agent sarin, a
Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.
"Further testing has revealed that it was indeed sarin," said Lieutenant Colonel Barry Venable. "We're looking at what new risks this poses to our
operations and people in Iraq," he said.
The 155 mm artillery round that contained sarin was rigged to explode as a roadside bomb but was found by a passing US convoy.
The round detonated as it was being defused, releasing what military officials said was a small amount of sarin.
The initial positive readings came from two field tests conducted after two soldiers on an ordnance disposal team working on the bomb began
experiencing nausea and blurred visions.
But the material was secured for more extensive laboratory testing to be sure that sarin was in fact present.
"Comprehensive testing has confirmed that there was sarin in that shell," said a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The shell, which was unmarked, was believed to be an older chemical weapons munition, possibly from stocks produced by Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War,
officials have said.
Iraq was known to have used chemical weapons during the 1980s in its war with Iran and against its own Kurdish population.
But the regime of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein never acknowledged that it still had chemical weapons before a US-led invasion in March 2003,
and no stockpiles have been found in the country despite a wide-ranging search for them.
"What is significant is that the confirmation of the presence of sarin (means) there could very well be more of them out there," the official. "The
other issue is who might have them."
The discovery of the sarin round in mid May came only about two weeks after soldiers found another roadside bomb that used a mortar round that
contained mustard gas.
In neither case did the weapons prove effective as a chemical munition, and US military officials in Baghdad said the bomb makers may not have known
what they were using.
The mustard gas in the mortar round was old and decayed, and the artillery round that contained sarin needed to be fired to effectively combine the
chemical elements into a deadly nerve gas.
Although Iraq was known to have tested, produced and used thousands of mustard rounds during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, it admitted only to
producing and testing only several hundred rounds containing sarin in the late 1980s.
Iraq made the admission after the 1995 defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Kamal Hussein, but declared that nothing remained after the 1991