Deadly Nerve Agent Sarin Is Found in Roadside Bomb
Kimmitt said the chemical shell was "an old binary type requiring the mixing of two chemical components in separate sections of the cell before the deadly agent is produced." He said the shell, which reportedly was not marked as a chemical round, was designed to work as such a weapon after being fired from an artillery piece, which would cause two chemicals to mix together in flight. But he said the mixing and dispersal of the sarin when the shell is used as a roadside bomb "is very limited."
He noted that "the former regime had declared all such rounds destroyed before the 1991 Gulf War."
It was not immediately clear who had planted the bomb or whether the perpetrators had known that the artillery shell contained a nerve agent.
Kimmitt said he believed that whoever rigged the shell as a roadside bomb did not know it contained chemicals. He said the bomb was "virtually ineffective as a chemical weapon."
Kimmitt said he would leave it to the Iraq Survey Group to determine whether the discovery of the sarin in the artillery shell represents confirmation that Hussein possessed stockpiles of chemical weapons. The 1,200-member Iraq Survey Group had not previously found any of the weapons of mass destruction that U.S. intelligence said Hussein was hiding, although the team found evidence of "program activities" related to such weapons.
Sarin, a liquid nerve agent, causes convulsions, paralysis and asphyxiation. It reportedly was used by Hussein against Iranian forces in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and against Iraqi Kurdish civilians.
Kimmitt said the area in Baghdad where the artillery shell exploded was minimally affected because the binary chemicals that produce the sarin "were not allowed to mix." He said there were "very, very small traces" of the nerve agent as a result of the detonation and that personnel involved in explosive ordnance disposal went to the site and later "showed some minor indications of nerve poisoning." But the exposure was so minor that they were later released, and the area did not need to be decontaminated, he said.
"It was a weapon that we believe was stocked from the ex-regime time, and it had been thought to be an ordinary artillery shell set up to explode like an ordinary IED," Kimmitt said.
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