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Iraq busts chemical weapons operation

| Saturday, June 1, 2013, 7:48 p.m.
Iraqi soldiers display containing chemical materials confiscated from four men accused of planning to make chemical weapons such as nerve and mustard gas.
REUTERS
Iraqi soldiers display containing chemical materials confiscated from four men accused of planning to make chemical weapons such as nerve and mustard gas.

Iraqi security forces broke up an al-Qaida plot to use chemical weapons, as well as to smuggle them to Europe and North America, the defense ministry announced on Saturday.

Five men were arrested after military intelligence monitored their activities for three months, Gen. Mohamed al-Askari said duringa news conference broadcast on television.

Three workshops for manufacturing sarin and mustard gas were uncovered, he said, and remote-controlled toy planes were seized.

Al-Askari said the group intended to put gas in the toy airplanes to attack Shiite Muslim pilgrims visiting the holy shrine of Kadhimiya in Baghdad, according to al-Mada Press.

Group members said they also intended to smuggle the weapons to a neighboring country and use them on targets in Europe and North America, al-Mada cited al-Askari as saying. Two chemical manufacturing sites were raided in Baghdad and another unidentified province in the country, the ministry said.

The terrorist cell planning to use the poison gas received instructions on how to make it from al-Qaida outside of Iraq, al-Mada reported.

Al-Qaida in Iraq is believed to be the only offshoot of the terrorist network to have used chemical weapons, the BBC reported. It detonated 16 crude chlorine bombs in Iraq between October 2006 and June 2007.

Chlorine inhalation made many hundreds of people sick, but no deaths resulting from exposure to the chemical were recorded, U.S. officials said at the time.

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