Citing intelligence documents and former soldiers, the New York Times reported Wednesday that American Forces uncovered 5,000 warheads, shells and bombs filled with chemical agents but their findings were kept secret.
Citing government papers obtained through the Freedom of Information Act request, the newspaper said although U.S. Forces never found evidence of an active program, they did find remnants of an aging chemical arsenal.
While the U.S. government said the abandoned weapons no longer pose a threat, there are fears that militants could use these arms in the production of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), The British Independent newspaper reported Wednesday.
The UK paper also reported “that this summer the Iraqi government said it had witnessed intruders looting the corroded equipment before their surveillance cameras were shut off” in the ISIS-controlled and unguarded region where chemical weapons are reportedly present.
A spokesperson for the Pentagon also told the New York Times that the suspected weapons had to be destroyed “promptly.”
“These suspect weapons were recovered under circumstances in which prompt destruction was dictated by the need to ensure that the chemical weapons could not threaten the Iraqi people, neighboring states, coalition forces, or the environment,” a statement read.
Meanwhile, a former Commander of the British Army’s chemical and nuclear weapons protection forces sounded the alarm that ISIS militants could possibly make dirty bombs as it has the capability of doing so.
Ex-colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon told The National Post that ISIS had shown it was determined to use chemical arms in Syria, and now the militants are said to have made “significant” advances in Iraq despite the U.S.-led air strikes targeting the radical group.
“These materials are not as secure as we had been led to believe and now pose some significant threat to the coalition in Iraq fighting ISIS,” he said.
Before the 2003 invasion, President George W. Bush insisted Baghdad was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program.
The New York Times report show that the U.S. Forces never found evidence of an active program but found remnants of an aging chemical arsenal and often they were not trained nor equipped to handle it.
All of the chemical weapons found by U.S. Forces were made before 1991 in a rush by Saddam Hussein’s regime to bolster its arsenal during its war with neighboring Iran, the paper said.
In most cases, the weapons were designed in the United States, manufactured in European countries and assembled in chemical agent production lines built in Iraq by Western firms, according to the Times.