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The Explosives Depot of Al Qa-Qaa was Looted a Year Ago

The Explosives Depot was Looted a Year Ago

By Sara Daniel, Le Nouvel Observateur

translated by L.Thatcher

Friday 29 October 2004

It's a city of explosives, the insurgents' paradise. The al Qaqaa site, from which 350 tons of explosives disappeared according to the IAEA, served long after the regime's fall to supply Iraqi insurgent groups. While I was working on guerilla cells that gravitated around Lattifiya in November 2003, I followed the group that a few days after our visit to al Qaqaa was to perpetrate the attack against the DHL flight. Abu Abdallah and his brothers in arms had come to steal TNT and explosives. The spectacle offered by this city of bombs, an Ali Baba's cave for terrorists that stretched over dozens of kilometers, was stupefying. To get there, the group that was to attack DHL knew all the possible passages, the little unpaved roads that American soldiers never took because they were too dangerous. To hear the guerilla, after the fall of the regime, they moved weapons and stocks of TNT by the truckload, thinking that the Americans would close off this too tempting weapons reservoir. They showed us their arsenal.

Rocket launchers, grenades rigged up as helicopter missiles, buried in fields of zucchini. However they very quickly realized that the Americans would have had to mobilize an entire army to guard the former weapons factory at al Qaqaa. Then they no longer bothered to bury the TNT in their farm gardens. All they needed to do was help themselves in the gigantic earth-covered hangars, burial mounds for explosives. Thanks to the precious red powder, the Abu Abdallah group assured me, they had been able to blow up a convoy on the road between al Asoua and the Basra highway.

Little Surveillance

While the guerillas drove their car towards the al Qaqaa munitions depot, they were intercepted by an American patrol. On a tank, a young soldier pointed his automatic weapon at the group. Abdallah got out of the car smiling and was able to get away after joking in Arabic with the American officer of Jordanian origin who questioned him. At the end of three minutes, the Americans let them go. When we arrived at the factory, no one denied access to it.

The few Iraqi armed guards that we met didn't even ask what we were doing there. Bewildered by the ease of access, we were able to walk around this city of bombs, shells, and explosives. The whole military history of Iraq was sheltered there. At the regime's fall, many looters killed one another as they fought over the shells that littered the floor. It was impossible to understand why the place was not better guarded. The next day at one of the parties given by an American agency at the Palace, I asked one of the generals in charge of training the new Iraqi army why al Qaqaa was not guarded. He had never heard of this once largest explosives and bomb-making factory in the Middle East...

"al Qa Qaa" Factory,supermarket for insurgents. see other pictures

Read the article in International Heral Tribune

Sara Daniel .

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About Sara Daniel

Portrait of Sara Daniel
Sara Daniel, a French journalist, war correspondent, expert on the Middle East.
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