Evidence of Anthrax Labs Near Kandahar

ByABC News
March 26, 2002, 7:52 AM

March 25 -- Several suspected biological weapons laboratories have been found in Afghanistan near the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff revealed today.

Some of the equipment found in the labs could have been used to make anthrax, said Gen. Richard Myers, "but not all the equipment you need was present."

Among the items found were petri dishes and slides, which could be used to grow anthrax cultures; a fermenter, where cultured organisms multiply; and a dryer, used to get the substance ready for packaging.

Out of 370 samples taken from 60 sites throughout Afghanistan, anthrax was found at two places and ricin was found at three others, Myers said. Ricin is a toxin derived from processed castor beans that, when inhaled, causes one to suffocate, turn blue and die within 48 hours.

But Myers also told today's Pentagon press briefing that there was "no conclusive proof of active agents," and that evidence of the germs could be naturally occurring.

He also said it appeared someone had attempted to destroy some of the equipment.

Myers was joined by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who announced that the United States will start training an Afghan national army to help restore stability in the war-torn Central Asian nation.

However, many of the details, including the size of the training force, their mission, and the cost were yet to be determined, he said.

The United States is looking for ways to raise money for the trainers and is looking for help from allies, Rumsfeld said. Myers said he expected the trainers to number in the "low hundreds at most, but we're still fleshing that out."

British and German members of the international security force in Afghanistan have already begun providing basic training for a limited number of Afghan soldiers around Kabul.

The Arrivals of the Warthogs

At a U.S. air base near the Afghan capital of Kabul, A-10 Thunderbolt attack jets have been brought in to allow for a quicker response to al Qaeda and Taliban resistance as U.S. officials warn that resistance fighters may be trying to organize themselves.