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Monday, November 01, 2004

So, Who Took The Hot Loot at Qaqaa?

I have recently commented on the hundreds of tons of high-power explosives missing in Iraq. It is unclear what exactly happened to those explosives; some reports quote US military officials as saying that the explosives were removed from several storage facilities, including Qaqaa, prior to the Coalition forces' arrival. However, here is a report by Sara Daniel, a French journalist who claims to have witnessed the looting in progress as late as six months after the fall of Saddam's regime.
The account of Sara Daniel, which will be published Wednesday in the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, lends further weight to allegations that American occupying forces in Iraq failed to protect hundreds of tons of munitions from extremists plotting attacks against their own troops.

Much of the controversy has centered around the disappearance of about 380 tons of the powerful HMX explosive. The material, which had been monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency before the war and subsequently sealed in bunkers by its inspectors, was reported missing by Iraqi officials earlier this month.

Daniel, who spent nearly two hours at Qaqaa with a group that has since become known as the Islamic Army of Iraq, could not confirm seeing buildings that carried the agency's seal or explosives that were marked to be of the HMX variety. But her report is one of terrorists having easy access to a vast weapons inventory.

"I was utterly stupefied to see that a place like that was pretty much unguarded and that insurgents could help themselves for months on end," Daniel said on Friday. "We were there for a long time and no one disturbed the group while they were loading their truck."

A man who identified himself as Abu Abdallah and led the group Daniel was with, told her that his men and numerous other insurgent groups had rushed to Qaqaa after U.S.-led troops captured Baghdad on April 9 last year. The groups stole truck-loads of material from what used to be the biggest explosive factory in the Middle East in the expectation that coalition forces would move quickly to seal it off, Daniel was told.

Abu Abdullah and his men showed her the arsenal of rocket launchers, grenades and explosives hidden near their small farm houses, she said.

But much to the insurgents' surprise, Qaqaa was not sealed off by U.S. soldiers, leading many groups to stop hoarding and instead going for regular refills of explosive materials, according to Abu Abdullah.
Whoever has got it right here,- the US military or Sara Daniel,- no one appears to seriously dispute, at least at this point in time, the fact that the Qaqaa explosives storage facility has been emptied of its content by those other than the occupation military authorities. And it was just "the biggest explosive factory in the Middle East",- no big deal, really.

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