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Suspected Chemical Incidents 'Unlikely,' Reports Conclude

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 1997 – The Pentagon said the existence or use of chemical weapons at two sites in Kuwait during the Gulf War was unlikely.

Bernard Rostker, DoD special assistant for Gulf War illnesses, released the seventh and eighth case narratives at a Sept. 25 press conference. He said DoD will have released 13 of the narratives by November, one year after it began publishing the cases on the Internet.

The latest narratives also are the second and third of a slated five-part series covering Marine operations in the gulf. They review reported incidents at Al Jabar Air Base, Kuwait, Feb. 24-26, 1991; and Kuwait International Airport, Feb. 28, 1991.

From the evening of Feb. 24 until the morning of Feb. 26, 1991, Marines reported seven chemical alerts during combat operations at Al Jabar, 50 miles southwest of Kuwait City. Gunnery Sgt. George Grass, a Fox chemical warfare detection vehicle commander, reported the most notable alarm the night of Feb. 25 -- a mass spectrometer alert for a blister agent that lasted several minutes. The source of the alert Grass reported was never identified, Rostker said.

All units in the vicinity of the seven alerts took precautionary measures. However, additional testing with chemical weapons detector kits didn't confirm any alert and no means of storing or delivering chemical weapons was found anywhere in Kuwait. As a result, DoD investigators concluded it's unlikely any chemical agent use occurred at Al Jabar.

Grass also reported a Feb. 28, 1991, incident at Kuwait International Airport. While inspecting an ammunition supply point, the Fox crew reported alerting on traces of three different chemical agents within 100 meters of each other. The mass spectrometer operator printed tapes of the three alarms, which Grass passed up through his chain of command to Central Command headquarters.

The next day, an explosive ordnance disposal team inspection produced negative results, and during cleanup operations after the war, no chemical weapons were found at the supply point. Follow-up investigations determined it was unlikely any chemical weapons were stored there. According to the case narrative, the reports were probably false positives caused by contaminants from the battlefield, an orchard in the vicinity or a nearby industrial facility.

The complete case narratives are posted on the Internet at the GulfLINK web site (www.gulflink.osd.mil). Persons with additional information about possible chemical weapons use should call the Gulf War illness toll-free hot line at (800) 472-6719.

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