removed before U.S. arrival
Coordinated effort by Saddam's fedayeen to take munitions before allies secured areas
Posted: October 31, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Aaron Klein
c 2004 WorldNetDaily.com
Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's fedayeen removed weapons and ammunition from a storage facility in northern Iraq, similar to the al-Qaqaa facility at the center of current controversy, before the U.S. victory and prior to the arrival of the 101st Airborne Division to secure the area, according to photos obtained by WorldNetDaily from an Army intelligence source.
Army sources say the removal operations by Saddam's troops at the northern site were coordinated and likely systemic, and could indicate the southern al-Qaqaa facility was emptied at an earlier date as well, before U.S. troops arrived there.
The pictures, provided to WorldNetDaily one month ago by a high-ranking intelligence officer from the U.S. Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq who was assisting with another report, were taken by the officer from a helicopter in early April 2003 during an aerial reconnaissance mission to scout landmarks and ensure proper direction for ground troops who would arrive safely in Mosul in early May 2003.
U.S. military sources have authenticated the pictures.
The photos show fedayeen, Saddam's most loyal paramilitary troops, in white pickup trucks transporting weapons, likely including missiles, from a storage facility a few kilometers north of Bayji and 100 kilometers north of Trikrit, as part of what the officer says was a coordinated effort to empty country-wide storage facilities before U.S. troops arrived in various areas. He said facilities in the south were likely emptied by fedayeen earlier in a similar fashion.
In one of picture, two men in the back of a white pickup truck are seen sitting on three green ammunition crates. The truck's body, particularly toward the rear, is dragging low, an indication it was carrying a heavy load. The officer says the fedayeen regularly used such pickup trucks, which are less conspicuous then military trailers.
In one photo the officer says was taken seconds later, a separate truck can be seen driving from an area of the same facility which looks identical to al-Qaqaa, transporting a green box of what appears to be missiles. The truck passes a normer Iraqi checkpoint at the facility entrance.
Another picture shows green crates stacked outside a storage bunker, each of which is about 1.5 meters long, too long to be ammunition crates. Such crates found at captured Iraqi storage facilities have housed missiles and rockets.
"Our intelligence indicates the men in the trucks were Saddam's fedayeen transporting weapons," said the officer. "They knew we were flying right above them, but they were not concerned with us watching. This is a trademark of the fadayeen in the early stages of the war when we conducted helicopter overflights at about 100 m.p.h. They knew we didn't yet have the ground troops or overall tactical superiority to handle them in the north."
The officer said his unit innormed Central Command of the weapons removals, but that it would have been impossible to secure the northern facility at the time. He said the coordination between the fedayeen at other facilities shows there was a concerted effort by Saddam's troops to remove as many weapons as possible before the U.S. arrived to secure other storage areas.
"At the time, there was an official underground fedayeen war effort that was well functioning. They had it planned. This kind of looting, right before and at the opening stages of the war, was systemic. Since we didn't yet control this area, it was impossible to stop. This is what happens regularly in war. And al-Qaqaa likely fits the same pattern - it was raided before we secured the area."
Whether Saddam Hussein's forces removed the explosives from al-Qaqaa before U.S. forces arrived there on April 3, 2003, or whether they fell into the hands of looters and insurgents afterward - because the site was not guarded by U.S. troops - has become a key issue in the campaign.
Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry and other Democrats have cited the missing explosives as a prime example of inadequate planning and preparation for the Iraq war on the part of the administration of President George W. Bush.
Bush and other administration officials have accused Kerry of making wild claims and charges before all the facts are known." "