Video cache shows al-Qaida chemical experiments

Afghanistan tapes back claims made by the U.S.

August 19, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

A vast cache of videotapes found in Afghanistan provides the clearest evidence yet to corroborate U.S. government charges that al-Qaida developed chemical agents and tested them on animals.

Last night, CNN began broadcasting portions of tapes it obtained, one of which shows what appears to be the agonizing death of three dogs exposed to a chemical agent, evidently before Sept. 11.

The tape was among more than 251 that Nic Robertson, a CNN reporter, brought out of Afghanistan 10 days ago. Experts said the collection is the largest known assembly of videotape ever made by al-Qaida of its activities - a library that was collected, cataloged and stored by unknown individuals, apparently to document the history of al-Qaida.

The archive includes instruction tapes on bomb-making and on how to shoot surface-to-air weapons, as well as the first meeting of Osama bin Laden and other Qaida leaders with foreign journalists in May 1998.

The earliest videotapes dated back to the late 1980s; the most recent included news broadcasts of the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Robertson and senior CNN executives declined to say precisely how or where they located the tapes, but said CNN did not pay for them.

In the tape broadcast by CNN last night, a white Labrador-like dog is sleeping in a small room. A man wearing typical Afghan clothing, and without protective gear, drops something on the concrete floor and leaves quickly.

As a white liquid oozes across the floor and a vapor fills the lower part of the room, the dog sits up, alert. In the next frames, the dog begins licking its mouth, salivates and sneezes.

The dog tries standing; its head shakes violently, and its breathing quickens. Its hind legs appear to collapse. Seconds later, the dog falls and struggles to stand again. Unable to control its front legs, it wimpers and moans. Then the dog appears to vomit. Its moan becomes a piercing wail. It seems to have trouble breathing. Its tail is all that moves as the screen goes blank.

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