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Chilcote: Probe into mobile labs continues

CNN's Ryan Chilcote
CNN's Ryan Chilcote

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KARBALA, Iraq (CNN) -- The 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division has found about 11 vans buried underground near Karbala, Iraq, according to a senior officer.

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Freakley described the vehicles as dual-use -- biological and chemical -- mobile labs. The troops also found about 1,000 pounds of documentation. The mobile labs were found buried close to an artillery ammunition plant, Freakley said

He said the vehicles appeared to have been acquired since the year 2000 at a cost of approximately $1 million and raised questions about their use and whether possession of such equipment constituted a breach of U.N. sanctions.

CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer talked to CNN Corespondent Ryan Chilcote about the find.

BLITZER: An American general is telling CNN that his troops have found a number -- 11, to be specific -- mobile laboratories buried in and around Karbala. All the vehicles ... sound a lot like the units Washington had warned about so often in advance of the war as it built its case for going to war.

CNN's Ryan Chilcote is embedded with the 101st Airborne Division. He's there, he is on the scene, broke this story -- Ryan.

CHILCOTE: Well, Wolf, the 101st has been inspecting several sites where they suspect that the Iraqis may have hidden elements of a chemical and biological weapons program. This new site they found about a week ago, and they now believe is very suspect.

Now, [Gen. Freakley] is really suggesting that the Iraqis did not declare or were not at least forthcoming about these laboratories, if they are indeed, like he is suggesting, laboratories. And that is really the problem, irrespective of what this site turns out to be.

He's saying, look, this is obviously suspect because they never mentioned this in the -- for example, in the Iraqi declaration to the United Nations about their chemical and biological weapons programs.

One word of caution, however. We don't want to sensationalize these new findings. There have been false alarms. This is not the first site that the 101st has inspected. Just about a week ago, Wolf, you'll remember that we reported extensively on another site where the 101st believed that they had found either nerve agent or a high-grade pesticide. It turned out to be a high-grade pesticide.

The work -- the inspection work that they're doing is slow and tedious and very sophisticated work, and it really requires a lot of patience on everyone's behalf, really, because really what they have to do is piece together a number of clues.

It is not appropriate to jump to conclusions, but the 101st believes, obviously, that they have at least enough interesting information, enough interesting things like, for example, that these -- these vans, as he's describing them, were buried under the ground.

Like the fact that, according to the general, they were clearly marked so that someone could find them if they needed to find them. And like the fact that he is saying that they were buried in close proximity to an artillery plant. Clearly, the 101st believes that they have enough information to continue with their investigation.


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