CLAUSEN, West Germany — A convoy of trucks today began removing a vast cache of deadly nerve gas that was secretly stored by the United States just outside this small West German town.
The convoy took away the first batch of 100,000 gas-filled artillery shells stored at a U.S. military site at Clausen, which is near Kaiserslautern in the southwest part of the country.
The lethal cargo, destined for destruction on a Pacific atoll, is being removed under a 1986 U.S.-West German agreement at a cost of $83.1 million.
Hundreds of crack paramilitary West German police troops lined the convoy route and stood guard on overpasses as the line of 80 trucks began shuttling the shells at about 8 a.m.
Vans carrying police with riot gear accompanied the convoy.
West German authorities said that someone phoned in a bomb threat against the convoy but that the first shipment proceeded without incident.
The first trucks arrived at Miesau, about 30 miles away, 2 1/2 hours later. At Miesau, the containers are to be loaded onto special trains that will take them to Nordenham on the North Sea, where they will be placed aboard U.S. Navy ships for transport to Johnston Atoll.
The weapons will be destroyed in a specially built incinerator on the U.S. atoll about 800 miles southwest of Hawaii.
Only about 20 of the 80 trucks that left Clausen actually carried the chemical weapons sealed in air-tight containers, said U.S. Army spokesman Jim Boyle. He said the rest contained decontamination crews, firefighters, West German and American soldiers, police, monitoring teams and medical staff.
"The chemical team is equipped to contain any incident," he said. "The operation is going as planned."
Only four protesters were spotted.