BAGHDAD Al Qaeda militants in Iraq were preparing to make crude chemical weapons using chlorine at a car bomb factory discovered west of Baghdad this week, the U.S. military said on Saturday.
The military said the facility in Karma, east of Falluja, had ties to recent attacks in which chlorine was used to transform explosives into makeshift chemical weapons that released suffocating gas and sickened dozens of people.
Lieutenant Colonel Valery Keaveny told reporters by video conference from the western province of Anbar that U.S. forces had found al Qaeda propaganda leaflets and "interactive DVDs" at the factory, which was raided on Tuesday.
"This is absolutely a display that al Qaeda is trying to adjust its barbaric tactics. Is this a threat? Yes. Are we prepared to deal with it? Yes," Keaveny said.
Two bombs this week using chlorine killed at least eight people in Baghdad and Taji, just north of the capital. The bombs sickened dozens more people who complained of suffocation after inhaling gas released in the blasts.
At the Karma factory, U.S. troops found five vehicles, mortar and artillery rounds, homemade bombs, propane tanks and three 55-gallon barrels of chlorine.
Another three barrels in the factory contained nitroglycerine, a chemical used as an accelerant for explosives.
"They had all the munitions, they had all the cars. The chemicals found were not weaponised yet, but they were probably planning to use them," said Captain Matt Gregory, commander of the unit that found the factory. One Iraqi was detained in the raid.