NICOSIA Ñ The U.S. military has found additional chemical warfare suits, and with the continuing silence from Saddam Hussein has targeted a key member of his regime.
Officials said Ali Hassan Majid, Saddam's cousin and head of Iraq's nonconventional weapons programs, might have been responsible for the supply of
thousands of chemical protection suits and gas masks for Iraqi troops being
prepared for chemical warfare against U.S. forces. Over the weekend, U.S.
marines found more than 300 such suits and gas masks in a compound used by
Iraq's 11th Infantry Division in Nassiriya.
U.S. Central Command reported that the marines also found chemical
decontamination vehicles and atropine injectors. Atropine is used as an
antidote for CW agents.
Officials said Majid has become a leading Iraqi figure amid the
disappearance of Saddam and his sons over the last 11 days. They said Iraqi
television footage of the ruling family appears to have been taken on the
eve of a massive attack on Saddam's headquarters in Baghdad on March 20.
Saddam was said to have been seen taken out on a stretcher from the damaged
U.S. officials said a marine force has moved north of positions around
Nassiriya toward the town of Shatra in an effort to capture Majid, who was responsible for chemical weapons attacks
that killed tens of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq in the 1980s.
Majid is believed to be commanding Republican Guard forces in the area
of central Iraq. On Monday, U.S. commanders reported the largest battle yet
with Republican Guard forces. They reported 200 Iraqi casualties in the
battle with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division east of Karbala.
"We have not seen Saddam Hussein or his sons," Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld said on Sunday. "We know that he prepared lots of videos before the
war started. And if you look at those, it's not possible to be certain that
they are current."
Rumsfeld did not discount the prospect that Saddam might have been
killed or incapacitated in the U.S. attack. "Certainly it's possible," he
Central Command has also reported the destruction of what officials
termed a large terrorist compound in northern Iraq. The facility at Khurmal
was said to have contained dozens of sites, including underground bunkers
where toxins and poisons were being developed.
Officials said Al Qaida and its satellite Ansar Islam were connected to
the Iraqi facility. Al Qaida insurgents are also said to have been deployed