Terrorists may have been close to obtaining munitions containing the deadly nerve agent cyclosarin that Polish soldiers recovered last month in Iraq, the head of Poland's military intelligence said Friday.
Polish troops had been searching for munitions as part of their regular mission in south-central Iraq when they were told by an informant in May that terrorists had made a bid to buy the chemical weapons, which date back to Saddam Hussein's war with Iran in the 1980s, Gen. Marek Dukaczewski told reporters in Warsaw.
"We were mortified by the information that terrorists were looking for these warheads and offered $5,000 apiece," Dukaczewski said. "An attack with such weapons would be hard to imagine. All of our activity was accelerated at appropriating these warheads."
Dukaczewski refused to give any further details about the terrorists or the sellers of the munitions, saying only that his troops thwarted terrorists by purchasing the 17 rockets for a Soviet-era launcher and two mortar rounds containing the nerve agent for an undisclosed sum June 23.
In May, a booby-trapped artillery shell apparently filled with the sarin nerve agent exploded alongside a Baghdad road but caused no serious injuries to the U.S. forces who discovered it. At the time, officials stopped short of claiming the munition was definite evidence of a large weapons stockpile in prewar Iraq or evidence of recent production by Saddam's regime.
The warheads all contained cyclosarin, multinational force commander Polish Gen. Mieczyslaw Bieniek said.
"Laboratory tests showed the presence in them of cyclosarin, a very toxic gas, five times stronger than sarin and five times more durable," Bieniek told Poland's TVN24 at the force's Camp Babylon headquarters.
"If these warheads, which were still usable, were used on a military base like Camp Babylon, they would have caused unforeseeable damage."
The tests were done by U.S. experts, who were conducting more.
The munitions were found in a bunker in the Polish sector, but Polish officials refused to be more specific.