A 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew in Iraq shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein was in the area where tons of explosives disappeared.
The missing explosives are now an issue in the presidential debate. Democratic candidate John Kerry is accusing President Bush of not securing the site they allegedly disappeared from. President Bush says no one knows if the ammunition was taken before or after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003 when coalition troops moved in to the area.
Using GPS technology and talking with members of the 101st Airborne 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS determined our crew embedded with them may have been on the southern edge of the Al Qaqaa installation, where that ammunition disappeared. Our crew was based just south of Al Qaqaa. On April 18, 2003 they drove two or three miles north into what is believed to be that area.
During that trip, members of the 101st Airborne Division showed the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew bunker after bunker of material labelled explosives. Usually it took just the snap of a bolt cutter to get in and see the material identified by the 101st as detonation cords.
“We can stick it in those and make some good bombs.” a soldier told our crew.
There were what appeared to be fuses for bombs. They also found bags of material men from the 101st couldn’t identify, but box after box was clearly marked “explosive.”
In one bunker, there were boxes marked with the name “Al Qaqaa”, the munitions plant where tons of explosives allegedly went missing.
Once the doors to the bunkers were opened, they weren’t secured. They were left open when the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS crew and the military went back to their base.
“We weren’t quite sure what were looking at, but we saw so much of it and it didn’t appear that this was being secured in any way,” said photojournalist Joe Caffrey. “It was several miles away from where military people were staying in their tents”.
Officers with the 101st Airborne told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the bunkers were within the U.S. military perimeter and protected. But Caffrey and former 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Reporter Dean Staley, who spent three months in Iraq, said Iraqis were coming and going freely.
“At one point there was a group of Iraqis driving around in a pick up truck,”Staley said. “Three or four guys we kept an eye on, worried they might come near us.”
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS e-mailed pictures of the material we found to experts in Washington Wednesday to see if it is the same kind of high explosives that went missing in Al Qaqaa. They could not make that determination.
The footage is now in the hands of security experts to see if it is indeed the explosives in question.