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Army confirms anthrax production in Utah

DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah (CNN) -- The U.S. Army said Wednesday it has produced anthrax in small amounts for years here and has told FBI investigators none of its supply is missing.

It is the first time officials have disclosed the U.S. military is still producing anthrax, 32 years after President Nixon closed down the nation's offensive biological weapons program.

The Army confirmed the FBI is investigating Dugway, along with numerous other research labs around the nation, in the recent anthrax terror attacks.

"All anthrax used at Dugway has been accounted for," according to an Army statement issued Wednesday.

Anthrax through the ages 

The FBI is looking for someone who began sending anthrax-laced letters through the mail in mid-September. Five people have died, three of them postal or mailroom employees.

The Army said it is cooperating with the FBI but would not comment further about the investigation.

The statement did say Dugway has "a rigorous tracking and inventory program" for all its biological warfare efforts and "is well protected with robust physical and personnel security systems."

The Army said it has turned out only small quantities of anthrax for research to develop defensive systems to detect deadly spores in the air and to decontaminate areas in event of an attack.

It said those research efforts were stepped up a decade ago after the Gulf War with Iraq.

The Army said its anthrax was shipped regularly, in paste form, in sealed containers to Fort Detrick, Maryland, where scientists would irradiate the spores before returning the inactive bacteria to Dugway for its tests.

"Dugway has never shipped any dry anthrax by commercial carrier," the statement said, apparently ruling out any loss or theft of spores in the form used in the recent deadly mailings.

Dugway Proving Ground, about 90 miles southwest of Salt Lake City in sparsely populated Tooele County, is a high-security facility that conducts chemical and biological warfare research.


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