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In the weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Iraqi looters loaded powerful explosives into pickup trucks and drove the material off the Al-Qaqaa ammunition site, according to a group of U.S. Army reservists and National Guardsmen who said they witnessed the looting.
The soldiers said about a dozen U.S. troops guarding the sprawling facility could not prevent the theft of the explosives because they were outnumbered by looters. Soldiers from one unit -- the 317th Support Center based in Wiesbaden, Germany -- said they sent a message to commanders in Baghdad requesting help to secure the site, but received no reply.
The witnesses' accounts of the looting are the first provided by U.S. soldiers, and support claims that the American military failed to safeguard the powerful munitions. Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency -- the U.N. nuclear watchdog -- and the interim Iraqi government reported that approximately 320 tons of high-grade explosives had been taken from the Al-Qaqaa facility after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003.
During the last week, when revelations of the missing explosives became an issue in the presidential campaign, the Bush administration suggested that the explosives could have been carted off by Saddam Hussein's forces before the war began.