U.S. Satellites Hunt Iraqi Biological Weapons Labs

(Washington Post) Joby Warrick - U.S. intelligence analysts have been closely examining satellite images of the west bank of the Tigris River in Baghdad for signs of a laboratory rumored to exist there. Called Tahhaddy, or "Challenge," the lab is purported to have 85 employees and a top-secret mission: making biological weapons for Iraq's military. Defectors and Iraqi exiles tell of underground test chambers, heavy security, and a viral strain code-named "Blue Nile," which sounds suspiciously like the Ebola virus. Intelligence analysts agree that Iraq has a reservoir of knowledge, technology, and equipment to create weapons of mass destruction. Iraq still has a residual arsenal from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, including stocks of chemical agents and possibly biological weapons that were hidden from the UN during seven years of inspections. In addition to a mosaic of defector stories, the evidence that Iraq is actively rebuilding its arsenal involves intriguing intelligence data, including satellite images showing new construction in bombed-out industrial parks where weapons were once made, and documented attempts by Iraq to purchase specialized equipment and supplies. In 1995 - four years after the start of inspections - the defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, the program's chief, led inspectors to find secret laboratories producing lethal bacteria by the ton. "UNSCOM didn't destroy everything," said Richard Spertzel, a retired Army biological warfare expert who oversaw the dismantling of Iraq's bioweapons program. "Iraq still has enough equipment, material, people, and know-how to make biological weapons." He concludes that Iraq can now produce biological weapons without any help from abroad, which it could not have done a decade ago.

2002-07-31 00:00:00

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