Munitions site looted after US arrived

October 30th, 2004  

Topic: Munitions site looted after US arrived

WASHINGTON - An Army unit removed 250 tons of ammunition from the Al-Qaqaa weapons depot in April 2003 and later destroyed it, the company’s former commander said Friday. A Defense Department spokesman said some of it was of the same type as the missing explosives that have become a major issue in the presidential campaign.

But those 250 tons were not located under the seal of the International Atomic Energy Agency — as the missing high-grade explosives had been. Defense Department spokesman Larry Di Rita could not definitely say whether they were part of the missing 377 tons.

Maj. Austin Pearson, speaking at a news conference at the Pentagon, said his team removed 250 tons of TNT, plastic explosives, detonation cords and white phosphorus rounds on April 13, 2003, 10 days after U.S. forces first reached the Al-Qaqaa site.

“I did not see any IAEA seals at any of the locations we went into. I was not looking for that,” Pearson said.

Defense Department via Reuters
The Defense Department released this aerial photograph, taken two days before the Iraq war, on March 17, 2003, of two trucks at the site where 377 tons of high explosives went missing. It was unable to say that they had anything to do with the disappearance.

Di Rita sought to point to Pearson’s comments as evidence that some RDX, one of the high-energy explosives, might have been removed from the site. RDX is also known as plastic explosive.

But Di Rita acknowledged: “I can’t say RDX that was on the list of IAEA is what the major pulled out. ... We believe that some of the things they were pulling out of there were RDX.”

Further study was needed, Di Rita said.