The head of the CIA weapons team in Iraq says insurgents are seeking chemical arms left over from the Saddam Hussein regime to use against coalition troops.
Charles Deulfer said in a television interview his inspectors have discovered as many as a dozen chemical-filled bombs, the Washington Times reported.
“What we are finding is that there are some networks that are seeking to tap into … this expertise, and try to use it against the United States,” Deulfer told Fox News Channel’s Brit Hume. “And we are very concerned about that. That is a problem.”
Former experts in Saddam’s WMD program are being recruited by anticoalition groups, Deulfer said.
His team has found through its probes into Iraqi arms laboratories and interviews with former specialists that the insurgents have an “interest in developing chemical munitions.”
The inspectors are watching “very closely” whether the insurgents actually are prepared to use the expertise, but Deulfer has no doubt al-Qaida associate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi will acquire and use chemical weapons “if he gets his hands on it.”
The Jordanian-born Islamist, believed to be the leader of the foreign insurgents in Iraq, is known to be a specialist in bomb making.
U.S. officials believe al-Zarqawi was behind the coordinated attacks yesterday that killed at least 100 people and wounded about 320.
Deulfer said his inspection team has uncovered bombs filled with blistering mustard gas or the nerve agent sarin.
“We’re not sure how many more are out there that haven’t been found, but we’ve found 10 or 12 sarin and mustard rounds,” he said. “I’m reluctant to judge what that means at this point, but there’s other aspects of the program which we still have to flush out.”
In May, U.S. military officials found a bomb containing chemicals to form sarin gas and another with a mustard agent — weapons Saddam was required to destroy under U.S. sanctions and terms of the cease-fire from the 1990-91 Gulf war.
Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz says military officials have uncovered about 8,700 weapons depots and continue to find new ones. They estimate the weapons depots in Iraq contain between 650,000 and 1 million tons of arms, which are believed to be a source for anticoalition forces.