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No Intruder Found at Utah Weapon Site

Terrorism: Someone was spotted in restricted area but fled. The Army depot stores nerve gas.

September 06, 2002|From Associated Press

TOOELE, Utah — Officials at an Army depot where nerve gas and other chemical weapons are stored found no trace of a reported intruder after a terrorist alert was sounded Thursday.

Col. Peter Cooper, commander of the Deseret Chemical Depot, said the security of the facility was never at risk and that the person didn't get close to the chemical storage area.

"At this time we cannot confirm an intruder," Cooper said. "Right now we are pretty sure we've cleared the depot. We're not sure if it was an employee who was not in the right area."

The person fled after being spotted within the heavily guarded perimeter by four soldiers during two patrols, Cooper said. By late afternoon, officials were still searching the grounds for the possible intruder.

In Washington, a senior Bush administration official speaking on condition of anonymity said there was no evidence of theft or terrorism.

The apparent trespasser, dressed in dark clothing, was sighted in a fenced area between the stored chemicals and the outer perimeter, authorities said.

Sheriff's deputies set up a roadblock around the depot after the alarm sounded at 9:24 a.m. and state police used a helicopter to search the grounds. There were no evacuations of the depot or surrounding areas.

The depot, about 45 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, covers 19,000 acres of mostly barren, wind-swept desert dominated by sagebrush. Chemical weapons such as nerve and mustard gas are stored there. It has been destroying a stockpile of deadly chemical weapons since 1996.

This year, the facility destroyed the largest stockpile of sarin nerve gas in the U.S. It is to destroy 7,400 tons of other agents.

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