Rumsfeld Says Weapons Of Mass Destruction Near Baghdad

U.S. forces raid, destroy what is described as 'massive' terrorist facility in Northern Iraq.

[This story updated at 6:55 p.m. ET 03.30.2003]

Though none have been found to date, the U.S. has long said that seizing and
destroying Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction is one of the main goals of the
war in Iraq. On ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday morning (March 30), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that those weapons have not yet been found because they are hidden inside cities that troops have not yet entered, such as Baghdad.

“The area in the South and the West and the North that coalition forces
control is substantial,” Rumsfeld said on the show. “It happens not to be the
area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they
are, they are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad.”

According to a Sunday report in The Washington Post, Special
Operations teams from the U. S., Britain and Australia have found no banned
chemical or biological weapons to date in 10 areas that were considered of
the highest priority by U.S. Central Command. Despite the lack of chemical-weapons evidence, for the third day in a row, troops found a cache of

hundreds of chemical suits, this time during a raid in Nasiriyah, where two
chemical decontamination vehicles and stores of atropine injectors — used as
antidotes for nerve agents — were also seized.

U.S. forces raided and destroyed what was described as a “massive” terrorist
facility in Northern Iraq on Sunday, which officials suspect could have been
an al Qaeda chemical-weapons factory. In an interview with CNN, Joint Chiefs
of Staff head General Richard Myers said the outpost is suspected to be a
Qaeda training facility and that it may have been the source of the banned
ricin poison that was seized in a London apartment in January.

Myers described the site as a large complex with many underground tunnels
which could take up to one week to fully investigate.

A UH-1 Huey helicopter, used in a support mission, crashed in Southern Iraq
Sunday night, killing three Marines and injuring one other soldier. The
crash, which occurred during refueling, was an accident, and not the result
of enemy fire, according to media reports. Iraqis claimed they brought down
two helicopters on Sunday, including an Apache gunship south of Basra and
another chopper in central Iraq. The Pentagon was not able to verify the
reports.

Between 10 and 15 American troops were injured at a U.S. military base in
Kuwait after being rammed by a pickup truck on Sunday. The attack
took place at Camp Udairi, which serves primarily as a maintenance and supply
location for the Army’s V Corps. Details about who was driving the vehicle —
a white Nissan — remained unclear at press time.

The attack came a day after four U.S. troops were killed in a suicide car
bombing and an Iraqi official promised that suicide strikes would
increasingly play a part of the regime’s war plan. During Saturday’s attack,
Marines inspecting a taxicab near the city of Najaf perished after the driver
detonated the car. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan later said
suicide attacks will “be routine military policy. We will use any means
to kill our enemy in our land and we will follow the enemy into its land.
This is only the beginning and you will hear more good news in coming
days.”

In the southern city of Basra, British forces captured an Iraqi general on
Sunday who they say is the highest-ranking Iraqi prisoner to date; those
forces also killed a colonel in the elite Republican Guard. A British
spokesperson said, “We’ll be asking him quite politely if he’s willing
to assist us to continue our operations against the paramilitary forces in
Basra.”

A soon-to-be-published report says that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
repeatedly denied requests from top generals during the run-up to war to
deploy a larger fighting force to the Persian Gulf region. On six occasions,
Rumsfeld argued successfully that the number of troops should be reduced,
according to an article that will appear in this week’s New Yorker
magazine. “He thought he knew better. He was the decision-maker at every
turn,” an unidentified Pentagon official said in the article. “This
is the mess Rummy put himself in because he didn’t want a heavy footprint on
the ground.”

General Tommy Franks, who is overseeing operations in the Gulf, said he had
not requested a larger force during the planning stages of the war. And
Franks angrily rebutted charges that the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq is off
track. “We’re in fact on plan. And where we stand today is not, in my
view, only acceptable, but truly remarkable,” he told reporters during a
briefing at Central Command’s headquarters in Qatar.

Franks also left open the possibility that war will last months, not weeks.
“One never knows how long a war will take,” he said.

On Saturday, the bodies of four American servicemen missing in action were
found buried in two separate shallow graves in Nasiriyah. One body was
“brutalized and mutilated,” according to an NBC report. The four
were believed to have been executed after they were taken by Iraqi
paramilitary forces during an ambush last Sunday, according to published
reports. The bodies of five other Marines killed in that same ambush were
also recovered from a burned-out vehicle on the outskirts of Nasiriyah.

Acting on the same kind of up-to-the-minute “targets of opportunity” information that set off the war in Iraq nearly two weeks ago, two F-15E Strike Eagles dropped laser-guided “bunker buster” bombs on a two-story building in the southern city of Basra on Saturday. The bombs destroyed the building where 200 members of the Fedayeen Saddam — troops said to be intensely loyal to Saddam Hussein — were meeting.

Other key developments over the weekend:

  • As coalition aircraft bombarded the southern outskirts of Baghdad in a
    continuing effort to target Republican Guard positions late Sunday night, a
    huge fire could be seen burning in the city’s center. It was believed to have
    been a deliberately set oil fire to make the targeting of positions in the
    city more difficult.

  • The U.S. intends to take a hands-on approach to the prosecution of war
    criminals, including allowing military officers to determine the fate of suspects, which could include everyone from President Saddam Hussein to a foot soldier accused of using a

    human shield.

  • The German engineer who designed the 19,400-square foot bunker at Saddam
    Hussein’s Baghdad palace has said that it can withstand a Hiroshima-sized
    nuclear blast from 650 feet away and temperatures of 570 degrees.

  • The headquarters of the international peacekeeping force in Kabul,
    Afghanistan, was attacked with a rocket on Sunday evening. The rocket damaged
    a few unoccupied buildings in the complex just across the street from the
    U.S. Embassy, but no injuries were reported.

  • Intense sandstorms could return to Kuwait and Southern Iraq this week,
    according to a CNN report.

  • Kurdish forces and U.S. Special Forces teams operating in northern Iraq
    continued to advance toward the strategically important city of Kirkuk on
    Sunday. Intense bombing caused some Iraqi troops to retreat into defensive
    positions as of Sunday night.

  • While U.S. officials have reportedly agreed to allow Red Cross workers to
    visit with the more than 4,000 Iraqi POWs, the Iraqis have not
    reciprocated, CNN reported.

  • U.S. officials have identified to the Syrian government which groups they
    believe transported military supplies over the Syria/ Iraq border. The Syrian
    government has angrily denied having anything to do with the incident.

  • Officials from a number of countries identified by the U.S. as part of
    the “coalition of the willing” are taking steps to distance
    themselves from the war effort. Italy’s conservative President Silvio
    Berlusconi has reaffirmed that he will not allow the U.S. to launch direct
    attacks on Iraq from sites in Italy. Legislators in South Korea appear to be
    pulling back from a plan to send 700 troops to the Gulf to aid with the
    U.S.-led war on the Iraqi regime.

  • Iraq’s southern oil fields may be out of commission for up to three
    months, a British official said, a good deal longer than others have
    predicted. The wait could further pinch the world’s oil supply and inflate
    fuel prices across the globe.

  • Thirty Israelis were wounded Sunday in a suicide bombing by an Islamic
    militant in the northern seaside town of Netanya. The Palestinian group
    Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility and said the bombing was a “gift” to the
    Iraqi people. It was the first significant attack in Israel in nearly a
    month. An Islamic Jihad spokesperson said Sunday that up to 4,000 suicide
    bombers are on their way to Iraq.

  • The Centers for Disease Control is investigating reports that three
    people have died of heart attacks after receiving the smallpox vaccine. The
    CDC is looking into possible links between the vaccines and heart problems
    found in 17 people. The latest death was of a 55-year-old National Guardsman;
    350,000 members of the military have been inoculated to date.

  • In his Saturday radio address, President Bush warned that the nation
    should brace for more casualties in the war as troops engage “the most
    desperate units” of the Iraqi army.

  • Congressional Democrats will support the $75 billion package to fund the
    ongoing war in Iraq President Bush submitted to Congress last week, according
    to Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota). Speaking during the Democrats’ weekly
    response to the president’s radio address, Dorgan also criticized the
    president’s overall budget for short-changing domestic programs.

  • Gunmen ambushed a U.S. Special Forces convoy in the south central town of
    Geresk, Afghanistan, on Saturday, killing two Special Forces soldiers and
    wounding one.

  • The latest casualty count: 67 U.S. and British troops killed, 31 missing.
    The total number of Iraqis killed is unknown.

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