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Photo, video show Iraqi complex before, after invasion


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A 101st Airborne Division soldier examines a barrel in a bunker in the Al-Qaqaa facility on April 18, 2003.
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U.S. military, arms inspector have different theories on the missing explosives.

What happened to a stockpile of Iraqi explosives?
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two more bits of possible evidence have surfaced in the mystery of the missing Iraqi explosives.

The Pentagon released a photo Thursday showing activity before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 outside a bunker at the weapons dump where 360 tons of explosives reportedly disappeared.

The photo might lend support to but doesn't prove the Pentagon's theory the explosives were moved before the war, and a videotape surfaced offering another scenario.

Nine days after the fall of Baghdad, on April 18, 2003, a news crew from Minneapolis station KSTP-TV, traveling with troops from the 101st Airborne Division, entered the bunkers at Al-Qaqaa, south of Baghdad. At one of the bunkers, the troops broke a seal to get inside, where they found barrels filled with powdered explosives, according to reporter Dean Staley.

Based on a review of the KSTP videotape, former weapons inspector David Kay said late Thursday that the seal is consistent with those used by the International Atomic Energy Agency and that the explosives in the barrel were the type of high-grade explosives missing from the complex.

"That's either HMX or RDX," Kay said, referring to the types of explosives. "I don't know of anything else in Al-Qaqaa that was in that form."

But Michael Lysobey, a former U.N. weapons inspector, said it was unclear from the videotape whether the barrels contained the high-grade explosives.

Because Al-Qaqaa was a depot for explosives, the barrels and explosives caps on the videotape are "what we would expect to see."

The explosives -- considered powerful enough to demolish buildings or detonate nuclear warheads -- were reported missing from the Al-Qaqaa depot in a letter this month from the interim Iraqi government to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.

The Iraqi letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency, dated October 10, blamed the theft and looting of government installations on a "lack of security" during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. (Explosives missing)

The agency now says more than 360 tons of those high-grade explosives cannot be accounted for, revising an earlier figure of 380 tons.

The disappearance of the explosives has been a campaign issue since The New York Times reported the Iraqi letter Monday.

Democratic nominee John Kerry said the report illustrates the Bush administration's mismanagement of the war, and President Bush accuses Kerry of a "complete disregard for the facts."

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the RDX and HMX stored in bunkers at Al-Qaqaa were put under seal and monitored by IAEA inspectors.

According to the Pentagon, IAEA inspectors last visited the complex on March 15, 2003, and they left the country two days later. On March 19, the invasion began.

When a U.S. military team arrived to inspect the site on May 8, they did not find the explosives.

U.S. troops who came through Al-Qaqaa in April also did not see the material, although Pentagon officials concede they were not asked to make a thorough search of the complex.

Pentagon officials have said they cannot rule out the possibility that the explosives were looted.

But they said they believe it is more likely the explosives were moved before the war because it would have been difficult to move that much material in a war zone crawling with U.S. troops without detection. (Mystery continues)

The aerial photo the Pentagon released Thursday evening shows two trucks parked outside of one of the 56 bunkers in the Al-Qaqaa complex on March 17, two days before the invasion.

The photo shows a large tractor-trailer loaded with white containers; a smaller truck is parked behind it.

Pentagon officials concede the photo does not prove that the explosives were being moved.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre and Kitty Pilgrim contributed to this report.


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