Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Libya's deadliest weapons not yet corralled -- and no one knows who controls them

No one can be sure who controls the Libyan government's weapons stockpiles, a stew of deadly chemicals, raw nuclear material and some 30,000 shoulder-fired rockets that officials fear could fall into terrorists' hands in the chaos of Moammar Gadhafi's downfall or afterward.

One immediate worry, U.S. intelligence and military officials say, is that Gadhafi might use the weapons to make a last stand. But officials also face the troubling prospect that the material, which was left under Gadhafi's control by a U.S.-backed disarmament pact, could be obtained by al-Qaida or other militants even after a rebel victory is secured.

The main stockpile of mustard gas and other chemicals, stored in corroding drums, is at a site southeast of Tripoli. Mustard gas can cause severe blistering and death. A cache of hundreds of tons of raw uranium yellowcake is stored at a small nuclear facility east of the capital.

Weapons demolition teams hired by the State Department have located and destroyed some of the anti-aircraft rocket systems in rebel-held parts of the country. more