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News Release


Release No: 129-01
March 27, 2001


A new investigative study concludes that U.S. servicemembers definitely were not exposed to chemical warfare agents resulting from Coalition air attacks on munitions bunkers at the Al Muthanna chemical weapons storage site in Iraq. A case narrative, "The Gulf War Air Campaign - Possible Chemical Warfare Agent Release at Al Muthanna, February 8, 1991," was prepared by the Defense Department's Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, Medical Readiness and Military Deployments. The special assistant's office is tasked with investigating Gulf War incidents related to chemical weapons, environmental exposures and medical factors that might pertain to the undiagnosed illnesses experienced by some Gulf War veterans.

Al Muthanna was the nucleus of Iraq's entire chemical warfare program and therefore a strategic target for destruction. After the Gulf War, Iraq declared that Coalition air attacks had destroyed sarin-filled 122mm artillery rockets stored in one bunker at Al Muthanna. Sarin is a nerve agent.

On the night of Feb. 8, 1991, a U.S. F-117 stealth fighter attacked Al Muthanna with a laser-guided bomb. The bomb struck and penetrated Bunker 2, destroying everything within. Post-war inspectors confirmed that the contents of the bunker - not more than 1,500 rockets and packing materials - were totally destroyed. Intelligence sources estimated that most of the possible nine tons of sarin in the rockets was destroyed by a very hot fire that ensued. Some 10 kilograms were estimated to have escaped into the atmosphere.

Computer modeling of the hazard area created by the estimated 10 kilograms of escaped sarin indicated a maximum downwind hazard extending no further than 50 kilometers southeast of Al Muthanna. According to records cited in the report, U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia were no closer than 412 kilometers from Al Muthanna and 388 kilometers south of the nearest point of the downwind hazard area. In addition, no U.S. special operations forces were in the area. The report concludes there was no danger to U.S. servicemembers.

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, Medical Readiness and Military Deployments, is posted on the GulfLINK Web site at http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/al_muth.

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