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Iraq

Marines find weapons cache, chemical suits, gas masks

©Associated Press

March 31, 2003


CAMP SAYLIYAH, Qatar -- U.S. Marines discovered chemical suits, masks and nerve gas antidote during a raid on buildings used by Iraq's 11th Infantry Division in the southern city of Nasiriyah, U.S. Central Command said Sunday.

After securing the two buildings Saturday, the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment found a large cache of weapons and ammunition, 300 chemical suits, 300 gas masks, atropine injectors, two chemical decontamination vehicles and other chemical decontamination devices.

Col. Ron Johnson said the regiment will take samples to experts for identification and then destroy the weapons and equipment.

"We found so much ammunition that it would be too dangerous to the city to blow it in place. We are going to have to transport it somewhere safe," Johnson said.

Saturday's raid also turned up more than 800 rocket-propelled grenades, more than 2,000 7.62mm rifle rounds, 5,000 14.5mm rounds, more than 10,000 12.7mm machine gun rounds, mines, more than 300 rounds of various mortars, and several hundred artillery rounds.

Also Saturday, British troops south of Basra found a stash of Iraqi training equipment for nuclear, biological and chemical warfare -- including a Geiger counter, nerve gas simulators, gas masks and protective suits, according to British press reports.

One chemical found in the raid on the Iraqi ordnance facility was marked "sarin," a nerve gas, and appeared to be a simulator used to test if sarin was in the atmosphere.

British troops also found nerve gas antidote, gas masks, plastic suits and other materiel.

Last week, Marines found chemical suits and masks, weapons and ammunition inside a hospital in Nasiriyah. U.S. Central Command said the hospital was being used as a military staging area for Iraqi paramilitary forces.

That operation seized more than 3,000 chemical suits with masks, Iraqi ammunitions and a T-55 tank on the compound.

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