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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Al Atheer / al-Athir
Facility 190 / Ma'mal al-Athir
Al Musayyib / The Motassim company

Musayyib is a sleepy provincial town located some 70 kilometers south of Baghdad. Populated mainly by Shi'a Muslims, there was no resistance to the presence of coalition troops. Residents of Musayyib say they were hoping the fall of Saddam Hussein would bring new resources to their shabby, rustic town. But more than seven months later, the streets of Musayyib remain unpaved, hospitals and schools are badly in need of repair, and local police are scarce and ineffective.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis disappeared during Saddam Hussein's three decades in power and were presumed to have been executed or imprisoned. With mass graves being discovered and excavated, the fate of those who disappeared may finally be learned. In southern and central Iraq, unknown tens of thousands of Shi'a disappeared in the reprisals following their 1991 rebellion against the government. Mass grave discoveries in Hillah and Musayyib alone have turned up about 3,500 suspected Shi'a victims.

During the 1980s manufacture of machinery and transport equipment accounted for only 6 percent of output value, and value added was fairly low, suggesting that Iraq was assembling imported intermediate components to make finished products. A single factory established in the 1980s with Soviet assistance and located at Al Musayyib, produced tractors.

Al Atheer / al-Athir / Facility 190 / Ma'mal al-Athir

The Iraqi nuclear weapons effort, which was directed from the PC-3 headquarters received raw uranium for processing from mines at Ukashat. Seven facilities were promiment in the calutron enrichment program. Four of these facilities, al-Jesira, al-Atheer and al-Rabbiyah and al-Dijjla at Zafaraniyah, had not been identified by American intelligence as being associated with the nuclear weapons program and consequently escaped any significant damage from coalition airstrikes during the Gulf War. The Iraqis expected the al-Atheer site to be bombed and moved materials from the facility during the War. The three other facilities -- Tuwaitha, Tarmiya, and al-Fajar -- were previoiusly identified by American intelligence as being associated with the nuclear weapons program and suffered extensive damage during the War. Another program for the production of uranium under the Petrochemical-3 project used gas centrifuge enrichment, with two facilities at Al Furat and Rashidiya, and a third under construction at Taji.

Al Atheer Center, located 68 km SW of Baghdad at al-Musayin near al-Musayyib [Al Musayyib], was designed and constructed as the major facility for nuclear weapons development, testing and production. The Al Atheer site was principally involved in nuclear weapons design activities to service the weaponization program, as well as functioning as a materials production center. The PC-3's al-Atheer plant included hydrodynamic high explosives tests for developing a nuclear weapons design. Activities at the site were included: uranium casting and metallurgy, core assembly, explosive lens assembly, and detonics testing. A high explosives test bunker near the site was used for hydrodynamic experiments. Eight buildings at the Al Atheer/Al Hateen site covered an area of approximately 35,000 square meters.

The two most important buildings at the site were the material halls in Building 6210 and Building 6220. Building 100 at the factory was involved with explosive tests. Sometime prior to May 1990 this building was tested with a very large explosive charge. The test was successful and a celebration was held. Along the road to Building 100 are warehouses where capacitors intended for use in atomic bombs are stored. During the Gulf War, Building 100 sustained a direct hit which moved the heavily reinforced building slightly but otherwise left it undamaged. [GulfLink]

After repeated visits, nuclear weapons experts on the IAEA inspection team became convinced that it was the Al Atheer site that was principally involved in nuclear weapons design activities. Iraq maintained that it was a materials production center until 21 October 1991 when it admitted that the site had in fact been built also to service the weaponization program.

The large nuclear weapons related buildings and bunkers were destroyed under IAEA/UNSCOM supervision in summer 1992.

On 13 December 2002 an UNMOVIC team of 14 inspectors visited the Al-Mussayib Pesticide Store, which sells ready-to-use pesticides. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry did not comment on the inspection of this site. But, UNMOVIC reported, "On request, the National Monitoring Directorate brought two facility representatives with keys to all buildings and rooms." The Iraqi Foreign Ministry reported that an IAEA team of three inspectors took water, grass, and mud samples in the town of Al-Swaira, near the Al-Swaira Bridge on the Tigris River, as well as the Al-Kaed River and in the town of Al-Mussayib near the "new bridge" on the Euphrates River. The Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate took samples at the same time "for a reference in case of need." The IAEA confirmed that its inspectors took water, sediment, and vegetation samples at "three Major Iraq Surface Water Drainage Basins of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers" south of the 33rd parallel.

Al Musayyib / Bilat Ash Shuhada - Solid Missile Plant

The Al-Mutasim Solid Rocket Motor and Test Facility at Jurf al Sahkar in Babil province, previously associated with Iraq's Badr-2000 solid-propellant missile program, was rebuilt and expanded. The al-Mutasim site supported solid-propellant motor assembly, rework, and testing for the UN-authorized Ababil-100, but the size of certain facilities there, particularly those newly constructed between the assembly rework and static test areas, suggested that Baghdad was preparing to develop systems that were prohibited by the UN. [CIA 2002]

Abu Ishaq al-Mu'tasim ibn Harun (794 - January 5, 842) was an Abbasid caliph who reigned from 833 until 842). He succeeded his half-brother al-Ma'mun. The ghilman (sing., ghulam) were introduced to the Caliphate during al-Mu'tasim's reign. The ghilman were slave-soldiers taken as children from conquered regions, in anticipation of the Ottoman devshirme system, and made into soldiers. The ghilman, personally responsible only to the Caliph, were to revolt during the reign of al-Radi.

During his 05 February 2003 presentation to the UN Security Council, Secretary of State Powell discussed "the type of concealment activity Iraq has undertaken in response to the resumption of inspections. Indeed, in November of 2002, just when the inspections were about to resume, this type of activity spiked. .. At this ballistic missile site on November 10, we saw a cargo truck preparing to move ballistic missile components." [Powell]

On 21 February 2003 a team of two UNMOVIC missile inspectors visited the Al-Musayyib Electricity Station to inspect fuel tanks used for operating the station, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry stated. UNMOVIC stated that the purpose of the inspection was to ascertain whether missile-related items were stored there.

Al Musayyib Chemical Complex

Badush, Baiji, Al Qaim, Samarra, Akashat, Al Fallujah, Baghdad, Salman Pak, Musayyib, and Basra were identified as chemical and biological warfare related locations by USCENTCOM as of September 1990. [GulfLINK]

Fifty-five UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors visited 13 sites on 16 December 2002, according to a statement by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. One group visited the Al-Musayyib Ammunition Store to inspect 81-millimeter rockets. The Foreign Ministry said the rockets "have a range of 10 km and are fired from rocket launchers" made from aluminum pipes manufactured by the Hittin State Company.

A reported 48 inspectors visited six sites on 26 December 2002, according to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. A team of 16 chemical inspectors visited the "petrochemical project" belonging to the Public Industry Consultation and Design Commission of the Ministry of Industry and Minerals, according to the ministry. Inspectors met with "specialists" at the site and asked about changes made since 1998, as well as the reasons for the cessation of new construction at the site and future plans, the ministry reported. Inspectors also toured the site, located 60 kilometers south of Baghdad, and checked equipment against declarations. UNMOVIC reported the name of the plant as the Musayyib Pharmaceutical Complex and noted that it was under construction in 1998 and remains so.

During his 05 February 2003 presentation to the UN Security Council, Secretary of State Powell stated that "I'm going to show you a small part of a chemical complex called "Al Musayyib", a site that Iraq has used for at least 3 years to transship chemical weapons from production facilities out to the field. In May 2002, our satellites photographed the unusual activity in this picture. Here we see cargo vehicles are again at this transshipment point, and we can see that they are accompanied by a decontamination vehicle associated with biological or chemical weapons activity. What makes this picture significant is that we have a human source who has corroborated that movement of chemical weapons occurred at this site at that time. So it's not just the photo and it's not an individual seeing the photo. It's the photo and then the knowledge of an individual being brought together to make the case. This photograph of the site taken 2 months later, in July, shows not only the previous site which is the figure in the middle at the top with the bulldozer sign near it, it shows that this previous site, as well as all of the other sites around the site have been fully bulldozed and graded. The topsoil has been removed. The Iraqis literally removed the crust of the earth from large portions of this site in order to conceal chemical weapons evidence that would be there from years of chemical weapons activity. " [Powell]

On on 10 February 2003 a joint UNMOVIC team of 10 inspectors visited the Al-Musayyib Ammunition Depot, located in the province of Al-Musayyib (Babil Governorate). Inspectors questioned the site custodian about the number of warehouses and the number of new buildings at the site, as well as the types of ammunition stored there, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry stated. Inspectors reportedly searched the warehouses using chemical sensors and X-ray devices and collected samples from an 81-millimeter missile, the ministry added.

Al Atheer and Al Musayyib were merged into the the Motassim company which was part of the al Rashid State Establishment.

Quickbird Imagery of the Al Musayyib Facility
11 November 2002
Click on the small image to view a larger version

NIMA map showing Al Atheer to the southwest of Baghdad

NIMA map with satellite image insert showing Al Atheer located near town of Al Musayyib.

Russian map showing Al Atheer complex

The Al Atheer/ Al Musayyib Facility occupies over 1,100 acres and is divided into two areas: the smaller solid missile plant, which is 200 acres in size, and the former Al Atheer research and development lab, which covers over 970 acres.

Overview of the research and development area.

Overview of the 81 mm rocket assembly area.

North-orientation of the solid rocket testing area.

Eight revetted buildings associated with solid rocket motor testing are visible in this image.

A solid rocket motor test cell. Four small earth-covered buildings on the left are propellant storage

A large revetted test area. The crater at the top is probably from the first Gulf War.

Comparative Overview

This image was part of the February 5, 2003 Powell presentation to the United Nations Security Council. It reportedly shows ongoing Iraqi efforts to remove proscribed Al Fatah missiles before UNMOVIC inspectors arrive. (Image date: 10 November 2002)

This DigitalGlobe image, taken a day later, shows continued activity at Al Mussayyib. (Image date: 11 November 2002)

Comparative Overview

On 10 November 2002, a cargo truck is visible.

On 11 November 2002, a mobile crane is in place, possibly to lift missile airframes on to cargo trucks

Comparative Overview

Five missile airframes appear to be visible in this image

On the next day, one of the missile airframes has been moved

Comparative Overview

Missile warhead containers on 10 November 2002

On 11 November 2002, the warhead containers are still in sight

Rocket propellant storage igloos. Two of the buildings on the right are incomplete.

Overview of the Al Atheer (later the Motassim company). This area used to be a part of the Al Atheer R& D center, and was more recently used to assemble 81 mm rockets.

The buildings with concrete partitions, are associated with the 81 mm rocket assembly.

An earth-covered revetment indcating an association with explosives or rocket motors.

Transformer substation for Al Altheer complex

Oil drums, possibly for obscuring the facility with smoke from oil fires.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:43:12 ZULU