Report on unguarded weapons 'ignored'

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The Independent Online

A human rights group disclosed yesterday that it had told US forces of unguarded weapons in an Iraqi military college without anything being done.

A human rights group disclosed yesterday that it had told US forces of unguarded weapons in an Iraqi military college without anything being done.

Peter Bouckaert, head of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said he told American officials about rooms "stacked to the roof" at Baquba, north-east of Baghdad, with surface-to-surface missiles on 9 May 2003. But the weapons still had not been secured 10 days later, and were being looted daily.

The revelation comes in the wake of the discovery that more than 380 tons of explosives had gone missing from another complex at al-Qa'qa. The issue had become the source of contentious and bitter debate between President Bush and John Kerry in the closing days of the US election campaign.

Mr Bouckaert said he gave US officials the exact location of the warheads, as well as photographs, after being taken to the complex by displaced people his agency was working with. But the officials did not seem interested. "They asked mainly about chemical and biological weapons, which we hadn't seen. For the next 10 days I continued work near this site, and nothing was done to secure it. Looting was taking place by a lot of armed men with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades."

Mr Bouckaert estimated that each warhead contained 26kg of high explosives. "What was at the military college could keep a guerrilla group in business for a long time, creating the kind of bombs that are being used in suicide attacks every day".

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