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Report: U.S. Gulf troops may have been exposed to mustard gas

graphic October 8, 1996
Web posted at: 8:40 p.m. EDT (0040 GMT)

From Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon is looking into the possibility of a third incident in which U.S. troops serving in the Persian Gulf in March 1991 may have been exposed to chemical weapons, officials said Tuesday.

The Pentagon has acknowledged that U.S. troops may have been exposed to the nerve agent sarin when they destroyed Iraqi chemical weapons stockpiles on March 4 and March 10, 1991.

This third incident refers to intelligence reports suggesting that Iraq used mustard gas against its own citizens in southern Iraq after the war, when U.S. troops were still in the area.

According to Pentagon spokesman Capt. Michael Doubleday, the question of mustard gas exposure was based on intelligence information that he said was "not finally evaluated."

"At this point, I don't have any way to confirm that the event actually occurred or to deny that it occurred," he said. "We just have to look into it."


One of the intelligence reports gave an account of Iraq's use of mustard gas to put down an internal Shiite rebellion at the end of the Gulf War. The report was briefly posted on the Internet by the Pentagon last year, then withdrawn because officials said it revealed too much about intelligence-gathering methods.

Doubleday said the report may never have been substantiated. Usually such reports are claims "by someone who has communicated with an intelligence source," he said, although he didn't know whether this particular report fell under that classification. "There is no confirmation in this piece of paper. I can tell you that. As I say, this is raw data."

The Pentagon says it has confirmed only one case where a single soldier was accidentally exposed to low levels of mustard gas in an Iraqi bunker.

Doubleday said there's no evidence so far that any other troops were exposed to mustard gas, but added, "I think one of the things we've learned is, that where we too rapidly respond to questions with answers that are incomplete, it later proves to be not a wise thing to have done."


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