TV Crew Photographed Explosives Cache at Al-Qaqaa

A Minnesota television station news crew reporting from Iraq in the spring of 2003 came very close to the spot where tons of high explosives are alleged to have disappeared.

Based on GPS data and confirmation from officials of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, KSTP-TV 5 Eyewitness News determined its crew was on or near the southern edge of the Al-Qaqaa installation on April 18, 2003, nine days after the fall of Baghdad.

KSTP in St. Paul is an ABC News affiliate station. Its journalists were embedded with the 101st at the time and shot exclusive footage that may raise new questions about the controversy surrounding the fate of those munitions.

Some 377 tons of high explosives -- HMX and RDX and PETN -- are said to be missing from the Al-Qaqaa weapons depot and questions have arisen about what the United States knew about the site and what it did to secure it.

During the April 2003 visit, the KSTP reporters say they witnessed U.S. soldiers using bolt cutters to get into bunkers. Inside, they found many containers marked "explosives." At least one set of crates carried the name "Al-Qaqaa State Establishment."

Military personnel told KSTP that the outside perimeter of the area visited had been secured. But the journalists say the area felt more like no-man's-land.

"At one point, there was a group of Iraqis driving around in a pickup truck," said former KSTP reporter Dean Staley. "We were worried they might come near us."

Photojournalist Joe Caffrey recalls seeing Iraqis watching them as they went through the bunkers. As his crew and the troops from the 101st departed each bunker, they left them open.

"We weren't quite sure what we were looking at," said Caffrey. "But we saw so much of it and it didn't appear that this was being secured in any way. It was several miles away from where military people were staying in their tents."

Caffrey also recalled overhearing a military briefing after curious soldiers had encountered another bunker.

"Apparently two soldiers had gone in to these bunkers, lit a match for light and the fumes or powder ... whatever it was, exploded and burned their clothes off," he said. "Shortly thereafter, everyone was told to stay away from these bunkers"

Another bunker encountered by the 101st Airborne and the KSTP crew was locked with chains and a seal left by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. According to the IAEA, the seal marked a facility suspected of holding "dual-purpose" materials that could be used to produce nuclear weapons.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...