Find a Security Clearance Job!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Al Hakam / Al Hakum

Jurf Al Sakhar [Jur al-Sahkar] 60-70 km SW of Baghdad was the site of a number of Iraqi special weapons activities. While this placename is not in common usage, the facility is apparently located near near al-Musayyib. The complex was home to Al Hakum, Iraq's most sophisticated and largest biological weapons factory. The Al Atheer Center, which UNSCOM has called Iraq's most important facility for nuclear weapons development, also was located nearby. The complex was also home to a number of other related establishements.

  • Ibn Al Atheer [Athir] Est. -- nuclear weapons
  • Project 212 -- production of chemicals used in making U235
  • Al Rafah Est. -- permanent launchers for surface to surface missiles
  • Al Wafa'a Gen. Est. -- missile research
  • Al Youm Al Adeem -- R&D for SCUD missiles
  • Project 2000 -- missiles over 2,000 km range

In March 1988, a new site for biological weapons production was selected at a location now known as Al Hakam. The facility is located in the desert, surrounded by high walls, and is spread over several kilometers. The project was given the designator "324". The design philosophy for the Al Hakam plant was taken from the chemical weapons research and production facility at Muthanna: the buildings were to be well separated, research areas were segregated from production areas and the architectural features of Muthanna buildings copied where appropriate. The plan for the new facility at Al Hakam envisaged research and development, production and storage of biological warfare agents, but not munitions filling. Construction of the production buildings at the northern end of the Al Hakam site was largely complete by September 1988 after which work commenced on erection of the laboratory buildings.

Al Hakum, located in Jurf as Sakhr [Jur al-Sahkar] 60 km SW of Baghdad, was specifically designed and constructed as Iraq's main biological agent production facility. Prior to the Gulf War this facility produced thousands of liters of Anthrax and concentrated Botulinum toxin. Hundreds of litres of Clostridium perfringen were also produced. Iraq claimed that the BW program was obliterated in 1991 as demonstrated by the unilateral destruction of the weapons deployed, bulk agent and some documents associated with the BW programme. Iraq, however, retained the facilities, growth media, equipment and groupings of core technical personnel at Al Hakam, and continued to deny the BW programme's existence. [UNSCOM 08 April 1998]

Al Hakam had been intended to be a specialized filling facility for biological warfare munitions, and the R-400 air bombs for biological warfare purposes were actually assembled there. Some weapons trials had been conducted at Al Hakam. [S/1996/258] Equipment-moving trucks and refrigerated trucks were observed at the Salman Pak BW facility prior to the onset of bombing, suggesting that Iraq was moving equipment or material into or out of the facility. Information obtained after the conflict revealed that Iraq had moved BW agent production equipment from Salman Pak to the Al Hakam suspect BW facility.

Al Hakam was constructed as a dedicated biological warfare agent research and production facility and had been operational before January 1991. Additional sites, including Muthanna, a known chemical weapons establishment, were involved in the program. After the admission that Al Hakam was the main biological warfare agent production facility, the Commission decided on its destruction. [S/1996/848]

The production facility at the Al Hakam site had long raised concerns relating to its original intent, as opposed to its current use. Iraq claimed that this facility is and always was intended only as a single-cell protein (SCP) plant for the production of animal feed. However, certain design features of the Al Hakam facility were superfluous to the requirements of an SCP plant, and more consistent with the requirements of a biological warfare agent facility. [S/1995/284]

The original design for Al Hakam had many costly features associated with work with toxic or infectious materials. Production of SCP does not involve the use of such materials and so would not require such safety features. An example of these features was the sophisticated air filtration system, using HEPA filters, for both input and output air on the declared animal house. Iraq argued that this system was required to prevent the spread of animal diseases. If, as claimed, the building were to house only animals for feeding, there would be no requirement for such safety features. On the other hand, such an air filtration system would be desirable if the building were planned for animal experiments involving infectious agents. According to information available to the Commission from the potential supplier, Iraq also ordered a similar air filtration system for another building at Al Hakam, housing laboratories. Iraq denied that such an order was made. When asked to present an air ventilation design plan for the building, Iraq stated that that particular page of the plans for the Al Hakam facility had been lost. [S/1995/284]

The layout of Al Hakam and the security arrangements there were more consistent with a military facility or a facility to produce toxic or pathogenic material than with a commercial SCP plant. The facility was constructed and equipped under conditions of great secrecy, akin to those used in Iraq's other proscribed programs. No documents are available which identified Al Hakam, at the time of construction, as a purely civilian production project. Iraq could not provide any public announcements that were made about what it has since claimed was intended to be one of the world's largest SCP plants. No foreign contractors or suppliers ever visited the site. Iraq falsified the information on an end-user certificate for a fermenter purchased for Al Hakam, claiming that it would be installed at another site and under the management and supervision of another organization. It similarly falsified information for the import of spare parts for equipment available at Al Hakam. [S/1995/284]

At Al Hakam, production of botulinum toxin for weapons purposes began in April 1989 and anthrax in May 1989. Initially much of the fermentation capacity for anthrax was used for the production of anthrax simulant for weapons field trials. Production of anthrax itself, it is claimed, began in earnest in 1990. In total, about 6,000 litres of concentrated botulinum toxin and 8,425 litres of anthrax were produced at Al Hakam during 1990.

In May/June 1996, a Commission team (UNSCOM 134/BW 31) supervised the destruction of the extensive buildings, equipment and materials. All structures and equipment at Al Hakam, except for a few items, were explosively demolished and the remnants were buried. The equipment at Al Manal and Al Safah, two other known facilities that had been used in the proscribed programme, was transported to Al Hakam and destroyed there. The air handling system for high containment at Al Manal was inactivated. The growth media purchased for the proscribed activities was also destroyed. [S/1996/848]

UNSCOM agreed to a specific request from Iraq to exempt from the Al-Hakam destruction three industrial chillers for hospital use. These chillers were tagged at that time. One of the chillers was then transferred by Iraq from the site without the required 30-day notification for the movement of tagged equipment. When the Commission inquired further, Iraq stated that the chiller was to be used on the production lines at an industrial plant. This action clearly contradicted Iraq's commitment to use this equipment only in hospitals. The Commission had to place a camera to monitor the chiller at its new location to prevent its use for unauthorized purposes. On 17 September 1996, Iraq sought permission to finally move all these chillers to hospitals. [S/1996/848]




NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list