The Department of Defense released today the results of the latest investigation of events during the Gulf War. The case narrative, "Chemical Warfare Agent Release at Muhammadiyat Ammunition Storage Site," focuses on the possibility that Coalition bombing of this ammunition storage site exposed U.S. forces to chemical warfare agents. Investigators from the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, Medical Readiness and Military Deployments, concluded that - with the possible exception of a few forward-deployed special operations forces in Iraq - U.S. forces were definitely not exposed to chemical warfare agents as a result of the bombing. For the few special operations personnel in Iraq, exposure is characterized as indeterminate from the facts available.
A CIA-published report examining exposure of U.S. troops to chemical warfare agents due to Coalition bombing prompted the investigation. Investigators at the CIA concluded "chemical agents released by aerial bombing of chemical warfare facilities did not reach U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia." The investigation was also done in response to suggestions by the Institute of Defense Analysis that weather and dispersion modeling for chemical warfare agent releases could be improved.
Although it is unclear whether Coalition planners identified Muhammadiyat as chemical weapons storage site, they knew it was an ammunition storage site and suspected Scud missile depot. For that reason, Muhammadiyat was repeatedly bombed throughout the Gulf War. In October 1991, inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) found damaged and destroyed mustard-filled bombs as well as damaged sarin/cyclosarin-filled bombs at the site. However, investigators found it difficult to calculate the number of chemical munitions destroyed by Coalition bombing there.
Using UNSCOM inspection reports, declarations by Iraq and other sources, DoD investigators determined it was likely that Coalition bombing released 180 kilograms of a mixture of sarin and cyclosarin nerve agents. Additionally, these investigators also believe an estimated 2,969 kilograms of mustard blister agent was released as a result of Coalition bombing. DoD used computer modeling to determine the possible exposure hazard areas.
Analysis of these releases indicates that any of the 17 Coalition bombing air strikes on 15 bombing dates could have released nerve agent between Jan. 19, 1991, and Feb. 24, 1991. Investigators also believe mustard agent was released on Feb. 10, 12 or 16, 1991.
Modeling these possible releases indicates that the closest U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia were 35 miles from the nerve agent hazard area. The closest U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia were 125 miles from the possible mustard hazard area. Therefore, we believe that U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia definitely were not exposed to chemical warfare agents released from the bombing of Muhammadiyat.
Nevertheless, it is possible a few U.S. Special Operations Forces personnel were exposed to a low level of nerve agent because of operations in Iraq on Feb. 17, 19, or 24, 1991. For these soldiers, we cannot determine if nerve agent exposure occurred since we only know the general vicinity, not the precise location, of these soldiers during the time of the hazard. No U.S. special operations forces personnel were present on the possible days of mustard agent release. The special assistant's office will notify those servicemembers who may have been exposed.
Case narratives examine Gulf War incidents that might have involved chemical warfare agents. They are part of DoD's efforts to inform the public about its investigations into the nature and possible causes for the illnesses experienced by some Gulf War veterans.
This narrative, and all other publications of the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, is on the GulfLINK Web site at http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/muhammadiyat.