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Iraqi Chemical Weapons Drill Turns Deadly

Monday, September 3, 2001 | Tag Cloud

ICEJ NEWS - 09/03/2001
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is back on everyone's radar screen again, after his forces reportedly ventured into Saudi territory and killed a soldier, while a recent training exercise using chemical weapons turned deadly for at least 20 elite Iraqi commandos.

According to the SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, some 20 specially-trained Iraqi soldiers are dead and up to 200 have been admitted to hospital after taking part in a chemical weapons exercise that went wrong. News of the training accident emerged last week amid concerns that Saddam has rebuilt his chemical weapons arsenal. The soldiers, based south of Baghdad, were suffering from severe respiratory problems, according to intelligence reports out of Iraq. A diplomatic source said the accident had not stopped further training and fresh soldiers were brought in soon afterwards.

Saddam last used chemical weapons against the Kurds in March 1988, causing thousands of injuries. In December 1998, American and British warplanes mounted Operation Desert Fox in an attempt to destroy Iraq's chemical weapons capability.

However, evidence surfaced last week that Iraqi scientists are working around the clock to rebuild the Iraqi leader's conventional weapons arsenal as well as his chemical capability. In the past three months, eight military factories have begun working at almost full strength. The most significant, in the unpopulated Syrian border area of Al Qayem, is said to be building chemical weapons and missiles. It is reportedly under the total control of Saddam's son and heir Qusay, who has "hand-picked" each scientist to ensure secrecy.

Over the past year, Saddam has been championing the Palestinian intifada to embarrass other Arab leaders and build popular support for himself in the Arab world. And right after recent close consultations between Saddam's regime and the PLO, a Palestinian journalist suggested in a leading Palestinian Authority newspaper that the Palestinians should begin using chemical and biological weapons against Israel as a way to "balance" the capabilities of the two sides.

This comes after it was revealed earlier this year that Saddam armed a number of Scud missiles with chemical warheads towards the end of the 1991 Gulf War, for firing at Israel in the event Allied forces marched on Baghdad. If he was toppled, he apparently was determined to take Israel down with him.

In a related development, Syria recently sent a signal to Israel by successfully testing a ballistic missile with a chemical warhead.

Meantime, Saudi Arabia is charging that five armed Iraqi soldiers recently infiltrated over the border and killed a Saudi soldier, saying it was the latest example of cross-border incursions aimed at attacking borderline patrols. Baghdad has countered that it was actually Saudi troops who ventured onto Iraqi territory and were repelled, adding that Riyadh and Kuwait are violating Iraqi air space as well. But the Saudis insist Iraq is trying to foment border tensions in order to prevent Islamic solidarity against the "Zionists."

Evidence also emerged last week that Saddam's most sophisticated Chinese-built radar tracking systems are back to strength. One intelligence official said that many advances had been achieved by Chinese engineers and technicians who had become regular visitors to Baghdad.

Iraq has become increasingly aggressive towards US and British warplanes patrolling the UN-declared "no fly zones" in northern and southern Iraq. There were 10 incidents in July in which coalition aircraft narrowly avoided being shot down. A US unmanned surveillance aircraft was finally shot down last week. The US responded by taking out the main Iraqi radar site near Basra over the weekend.

Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

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