Iraqi arms caches are linked to attacks

October 14, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The two most recent suicide bombings here and virtually every other attack on U.S. soldiers and Iraqis were carried out with explosives and materiel taken from Saddam Hussein's former weapons dumps, which are much larger than previously estimated and remain, for the most part, unguarded by U.S. troops, allied officials said yesterday.

The problem of uncounted and unguarded weapons sites is considerably greater than has previously been stated, a senior allied official said.

The U.S. military now says that Iraq's army had nearly a million tons of weapons and ammunition, compared with 650,000 tons that Gen. John P. Abizaid, the senior U.S. commander in the Persian Gulf region, estimated two weeks ago.

In separate interviews, the officials - civilian and military and from different countries - expressed concern about the potential of attackers with access to the weapons dumps to nurture violence and insecurity.

The officials said they were receiving intelligence about the attacks - who is carrying them out and where they are getting their munitions - from a variety of sources. Among the most fruitful, they said, have been would-be bombers who were stopped before carrying out their missions.

The officials were deliberately vague about how many attacks had been thwarted, for fear of alarming an already jumpy populace here. But one of them said several car bombings had been prevented in recent weeks, suggesting that the number was more than just a handful.

Officials also say that Hussein stockpiled at least 5,000 shoulder-fired missiles and that less than a third of those have been recovered. They fear that many have been smuggled out of the country and fallen into the hands of terrorist organizations.

"There are more sites than we can guard," an allied official said. "We are destroying them as fast as we can, but we are finding more and more every day."

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