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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