The United States has confirmed the use of Iraqi
chemical weapons in the current insurgency war against the coalition.
Officials said a 155 mm artillery shell used in an attack against U.S.
troops in Iraq contained sarin, a lethal nerve agent. The officials said the
155 mm artillery shell came from the weapons arsenal of the former Saddam
"That was a pre-Gulf War shell is what it was determined to be, first of
all," Brig. Gen. David Rodriguez, deputy director for operations for the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Wednesday. "So that's, you know, in a
different category, obviously, than you know, other chemical weapons out
there. But it's been proved to be sarin."
The 155 mm artillery shell was planted along the side of the road and
meant to explode as a U.S. convoy passed. Instead, the binary chemical round
was detected by U.S. troops and exploded as it was being detonated.
Officials said only a small amount of sarin was released from the
explosion on May 15. The 155 mm shell was designed to produce
sarin after it was shot from an artillery gun. Nobody was seriously hurt in
the explosion in Iraq.
This was the first time the Defense Department confirmed the finding of
a nonconventional sarin weapon in Iraq. Most of the earlier reports of CW in
Iraq were later disproved.
"We continue to operate the same way we did before," Rodriguez said.
"And we'll continue to continue to pursue it with every intelligence asset
we have. We think we've covered that with everybody, and we continue testing
and checking into it."
Iraqi began to test a binary sarin shell in 1988, officials said. The
Saddam regime had never acknowledged storing sarin shells in the 1990s.
Officials said the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence community have
assessed that Sunni insurgents and Saddam loyalists have access to weapons
arsenals that could contain additional CW. They said the shells were
unmarked and come from stocks produced by Saddam in the late 1980s.
"We know that they tested sarin shells," Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di
Rita said. "Defectors told us that they tested these things. We also know
that he produced somewhere between 7 [hundred tons] and 850 tons of this
stuff and only accounted for the destruction of about 70 tons of it."
Saddam loyalists were also believed to have deployed unmarked mustard
gas shells. In early May, a mortar round that contained mustard gas was
found by U.S. soldiers in an attempted roadside attack in Baghdad.