Gas mask find raises fear of chemical strike

By Maurice Chittenden and Richard Edwards

Royal Marine commandos yesterday found gas masks on Iraqi soldiers killed and captured in combat – the clearest sign yet that Saddam Hussein is preparing to use weapons of mass destruction against allied forces.

The respirators, new and marked with an expiry date of 2007, contrasted with the troops’ ancient rifles and decrepit equipment.

Two unused masks wrapped in a green bag were found next to the bodies of two soldiers in trenches on the al-Faw peninsula after the pair had been killed in an attack by an American helicopter gunship.

Two other Iraqis were killed and 70 captured when the commandos stormed the trenches. Other masks were found on the prisoners.

“This is a dark discovery and a stark warning to my men,” said Lieutenant-Colonel “Buster” Howes, commanding officer of 42 Commando. “But we are well drilled against the threat and cannot let it stop us in our mission.”


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