Warning: This investigation includes graphic images some readers may find disturbing.

In a remote and far village, with no paved roads, and mostly mud-brick houses, 16-year-old Ahmed Daoud goes every day to play football with his friends, in a dirt yard near the palm grove on the edge of the impoverished village of Khalil Al-Husseinawi. But the boys stopped playing for several days in April 2003 because of the heavy shelling of tank and anti-aircraft positions by the Iraqi army in the orchard and around the village (south of Diyala province) to hide from US aircrafts.

After the shelling stopped, Ahmad and his friends returned to play football, and the view of the damaged tanks was not worrying for them; as long as the planes would not return to the skies of the village; but what the young players did not know was that they were dying in the palm grove, in the burning tanks bombed with depleted uranium, and in the dust they inhale running after the ball.

Six months have passed since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, during which much has changed in Iraq, as well as in the village of Khalil Al-Husseinawi, where Ahmad lives with his family, while playing in that dirt arena, Ahmed fell to the ground, and this was his last reign with football, which he would never be able to kick and pass to his friends again.

After many reviews of private hospitals and doctors’ clinics, Ahmed was found to have lymphoma, in a video we got from a special source in the Diyala Health Department archive, dating back to 2011, Ahmed appeared as his hair has fallen, and the symptoms of the disease appeared as he talks about his health, which is getting worse day by day, stressing that the doctors he consulted directly attributed the cause of cancer to radiation exposure.

“Our areas came under American bombardment, and six months later I was diagnosed with this disease, I have left my studies, and we don’t have the money to get treated, I appeal to the government to help us and get me out of Iraq so that I can be treated”.

With these few and tiring words, Ahmed documented his testimony and his illness. His mother said: “He was in full health before the American bombing, but after that he showed symptoms of fatigue, his feet began to get numb every now and then. Tumors appeared under his armpit, waist and chest, and he was not diagnosed with cancer early, so we could no longer do anything”

Ahmed Daoud talking about his cancer, we got the video from a special source in the health department of Diyala province.

Ahmad died in 2011, eight years after being diagnosed with cancer. This video was a sad testimony documenting an urgent appeal to survive, but no one heard, and the government he appealed for to help him, did not lend him a hand, and blocked the only video of him for all these years, before we found it. This story was the beginning of our investigation into the devastating effects of the use of depleted uranium weapons in the 1991 Gulf War, the so-called Desert Storm, the 2003 war that ended with the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and the entry of the US-led coalition into Iraq.

Ahmad’s brother Noman Daoud blames the US military for the death of his brother. “Our area has been contaminated by radiation from the American bombing; the children who went out to play were all injured. Ahmed was not alone, his friends also had cancer, and many of the villagers” Noman continues: “When Ahmad went to hospitals in Diyala and Baghdad, doctors ask them if they live near army camps or military sites, because tests indicate high levels of radioactive contamination”.

Another video we got from private sources in the Diyala Health Department, also from the village of Khalil Al-Husseinawi, shows a group of five women with cancer, talking about the circumstances of the injury, where Sana’ Hamad says that two weeks after the bombing of US aircraft went out with other women to the field, thereafter strange symptoms began to appear on them, and when they underwent medical tests found that they had cancer.

Women from the village of Khalil Al-Husseinawi talking about their cancer, we got the video from a special source in the Diyala Health.

We traced all those who appeared in the videos we got, and went to the village of Khalil Al-Husseinawi, to investigate the status of cancer patients there, and to know their fate, but we found no other than the family of Ahmed, who told us about the circumstances of his injury and death. And as for the other women, the residents there told us that they were displaced with their families after 2006 civil war, they have not returned to the village since then, and their fate is unknown, however, they assured us that cancer was rampant in the village and many died of the disease.

Fierce Cancer War

Since the 1991 Gulf War, the high incidence of cancer and birth defects in Iraq has been remarkable, and many international organizations and studies conducted on thousands of Iraqis over the past 28 years attribute this rise to the use of depleted uranium in the wars of 1991 and 2003 and increased rates of radiation pollution in overpopulated urban areas.

Many requests we made to the Ministry of Health –including Iraqi Cancer Board as well as Planning & Developing of Resources directorate- for their annual statistical reports for the purpose of studying and comparing the numbers and rates of cancer and birth defects in Iraqi cities; every time the ministry rejects our request for reasons that it did not explain, but in the end, with the help of staff from the Planning and Resource Development directorate at the Ministry’s headquarters who requested anonymity, we were able to obtain unpublished annual statistical reports for the period from 1991 to 2018.

From 1991 to 2003, the number of cancer patients in Iraq reached 131072, while the number increased significantly after the 2003 war that toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime, from 2004 to 2018, 287254 people had cancer, according to the Ministry of Health, but some believe this figure is considerably lower than the actual number of cancer patients.

Abbas Qassem, 22 years old, has cancer due to radioactive contamination on the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, Basra, 2002/ Photo by Scott Peterson – Getty Images

In his testimony about the impact of depleted uranium weapons, Professor Mohammed Al-Sheikhly, a professor of nuclear physics and former dean of the Faculty of Science at Baghdad University, told us that the actual number of cancer patients in Iraq is close to one million, he adds that he has given the Ministry of Health and the Environment and the United Nations a detailed report on the catastrophic effects of radioactive contamination, where he was part of a research team two weeks after the US-led coalition entered Iraq on April 9, 2003. The team’s task was to measure the level of radioactive contamination in areas bombed with DU, as well as military and nuclear facilities that suffered destruction and theft.

Al-Sheikhly, who now resides in Beirut, says he and a team from the Uranium Medicine Research Center investigated sites bombed with depleted uranium from the north of Baghdad to the southern Iraqi city of Umm Qasr, where the border area with Kuwait, in particular, surveyed heavily fortified areas and military facilities which were targeted of large quantities of uranium ammunition as a weapon designed to penetrate armor.

“As we crossed Iraq, we saw the remnants of thousands of armored, burned and destroyed armored vehicles, from tanks, troop carriers, military trucks, heavy artillery locomotives, and others, spread along the battlefields from Baghdad to the far south in Umm Qasr and Al-Fao. All of these shields received devastating strikes from US planes and tanks with ammunition, mostly made of depleted uranium material, these shields  spread in the fields and orchards and under the palm and between houses”.

What happens when a target is hit by a depleted uranium shell?

A question we asked to Dr. Muhammad al-Sheikhly, and his response was: “When the projectile penetrates the target’s body, 20 percent of the projectile’s mass turns into uranium oxides, where it forms with dust and smoke, a cloud that spreads inside and outside the target, and it is capable of killing those in the target circle even if it does not explode or burn, as the percentage of radiation at the penetration site is 30 thousand times more than the normal level, and after penetrating the shell, approximately 60 percent of its body remains in its basic form, the other 40 percent fly in the form of shrapnel from residues and parts, they spread and may cause secondary fires and explosions.”

Iraqi tank junkyard in the desert near Al-Jahrah, Kuwait. Photo by Yann Arthus-Bertrand – Getty Images

As for the energy of “alpha rays” in the shrapnel, al-Sheikhly asserts that it amounts to about 4.2 million electrovolts, and it is capable of causing ionization capable of destroying the human skin that is caught or touched. These fragments emit radiation at an equivalent dose of 300 millirem per hour.

Al-Sheikhly told us about the results of the field study concluded by the scientific team at the American Uranium Medicine Research Center, and revealed to us four main points that show catastrophic radiation levels, namely:

First: The high level of radioactive contamination in vast areas of the atmosphere of Baghdad and the regions of southern Iraq, and this level increases in the air in some areas more than ten times the normal level. The radiological readings were higher in the air than in the soil, and this is an indication that the radioactive minutes carried by dust and air are of the exact type that is easy to be inhaled, precipitated and stay in the lung vesicles.

Second: It was noted that the uranium fragments left by some explosive releases are spread over a wide area, especially in the fields, what threatens surface water and nutritional and agricultural cycles in addition to the groundwater with time passing. In an area near Basra, one of the shells had penetrated a tank body and entered the wall of an ice production plant, and some shrapnel settled in the main water basin from which ice is produced and used by thousands of people in the summer.

Third: The spread of radioactive and toxic exposure to uranium residues among thousands of Iraqis who lifted the engines and tools of infected and burned machinery to sell or benefit from it. The team found that all the machineries and shields examined had their engines and proper parts removed after being bombed and burned. They also found that the radiation level of one of the civilians was a thousand times greater than normal, this is in his hands, face and clothes, in addition to what many children who have fun playing with some shells and their splitting parts have been exposed to. Also, the pollution reached the bodies of the dead soldiers inside the tanks and those who were buried near them, where the radiation level in the suit of one of the dead soldiers reached two thousand times more than the normal level.

Fourth: The occurrence of cases of joint pain, nosebleeds, nervous infections, back pain, visual disturbances and urine burning in the population near the location of the affected armor, which are similar to the symptoms of radiation exposure.

During the field survey, Al-Sheikhly confirmed that they observed in some locations that the coalition forces was  lifting the tanks and the affected vehicles and evacuating them to remote areas, scraping the soil under these mechanisms and replacing them with new soil after throwing the contaminated soil in remote areas. Al-Sheikhly believes that this procedure stems from the knowledge of these forces of the danger of radioactive and toxic pollution which is caused by uranium residues in these mechanisms.

The number of cancer patients from 1991 to 2018 based on unpublished statistics obtained from the Ministry of Health.

In January 1998 issue, the paper journal “Alf Ba’a” published the statistics of the Iraqi Ministry of Health for the incidence of leukemia in Iraq, and then showed a rise that the ministry said it is significant in case of the decline of health services due to the embargo imposed on Iraq under the United Nations resolution 661 issued in August 6, 1990 as a result of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Statistics covering six provinces in southern Iraq between 1989 and 1995 show that the incidence of leukemia increased from 3.8% to 10.6% in Muthanna province, from 5.4% to 10.3% in Basra province, from 4.6% to 8.2% in Thi Qar province, 4.5% to 7.5% in Maysan Province, 4.8% to 6.2% in Qadisiyah Governorate (now Diwaniyah) and 5.3% to 8% in Wassit Province.

Also in 1998, the United Nations issued a document revealing that cancer rates increased six times after the 1991 Gulf War, According to the document that the increase in the incidence of cancer throughout Iraq reached 55% between 1989 and 1994 and that new types of cancer began to spread in the country, and cancer began to appear in young people.

Radioisotope nightmare

Data from the Swedish Defense Research Agency indicate in its report submitted to the Swedish Ministry of Defense that the United States dropped a total of 78,214 projectiles of depleted uranium on Iraq in the 1991 Desert Storm War, and the US military’s use of depleted uranium in the 2003 war rose to 300,000 projectiles according to the Swedish Agency, stressed the United States ignoring the warnings of the use of this weapon in densely populated urban areas.

The depleted uranium weapon used in large quantities by the US military cost Iraq huge losses, and destroyed most of its military capability and mechanisms. In the 1991 war, the US Central Command announced that the Iraqi army had lost 3,700 of its 4,280 tanks, 2,400 of 2,880 armored personnel carriers and 2,600 of 3,100 artillery pieces.

The destroyed Iraqi military equipment turned into radioactive contaminated scrap metal and was collected in large iron cemeteries near the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, as well as in several areas of Basra province, as well as in the village of Abu Flus, which is near the largest contaminated military scrap cemetery, in addition, 2,000 armored and civilian vehicles were bombed on International Route 80 during the Iraqi army’s withdrawal from Kuwait in 1991, later known as the “Road of Death.”

In the 2003 war, there are no statistics on the number of vehicles and military sites bombed with depleted uranium, but what is certain is that the vast majority of them have already been destroyed. To make matters worse, the vehicles – tanks and armor – and air defense platforms were deployed in cities and peripheries and in orchards and remote villages, making them vulnerable to theft and circulation after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Density and distribution of the use of depleted uranium munitions by American A-10s planes, between 20 March 2003 and 15 April 2003. Source: PAX.

After US troops entered Baghdad in June 2003, a team from Greenpeace International Organization assessed radioactive contamination at the Tuwaitha nuclear site, the country’s largest nuclear facility, and accused the US military of violating international law for refusing to allow a field survey to find out the amount of radioactive contamination there.

The Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Facility (17 km south of Baghdad), built in the 1960s, consists of a complex of more than 100 buildings spanning 56 square kilometers. This facility was the center of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program. The first activities at this site included several research reactors and activities related to plutonium isolation, waste treatment, uranium mining and neutron initiator development, as well as other activities centered on a number of uranium enrichment techniques.

The facility also includes “Tamouz 1” reactor, bombed by Israel in 1981 in an air strike involving eight US-made F-16 aircraft, in an operation dubbed “Operation Opera” by Israel, which was strongly condemned by the UN Security Council in resolution 487 as the first military attack on a nuclear facility in the world.

In the aftermath of 1991 war, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) removed all known Iraqi stockpiles of nuclear material suitable for use in weapons according to the Security Council Resolution 687. Other radioactive materials, including uranium, were stored in sealed barrels at the Tuwaitha site, It was examined annually by the IAEA under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

According to the IAEA, in December 2002; 500 tons of “yellowcake” and 1,800 kilograms of low-enriched uranium were still present at the Tuwaitha site, as well as hundreds of high-radioactive industrial sources that remained available in the country.

Tuwaitha nuclear facility after being bombed and robbed, we obtained the video from a special source in the Ministry of Science and Technology.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei and World Health Organization Director Gro Harlem Brundtland on July 10, 2003, the Greenpeace team says “Residents of the areas near the Tuwaitha site have seized barrels containing nuclear material known as the “yellow cake” and other containers they needed to store food, water and milk” The residents did not know that the barrels were radioactive and poisonous, and that they put themselves at great risk. According to some witnesses, they saw individuals carrying containers and unloading their low radioactive contents in the soil or in the local water supply networks.

The letter documents the testimony of a local doctor, Ja’far Nasser, who runs a clinic near Tuwaitha site, he said he had treated for five days -after residents took over the site’s equipment- about 20 patients, all of whom were poisoned with radioactive substances, developed symptoms similar to those with Acute Radiation Syndrome – bleeding, vomiting, shortness of breath, nausea and rash.

Greenpeace experts took a week to conduct a long survey of the contaminated area. They observed radioactivity in a number of homes 10,000 times the normal level of radiation. In another source outside AlMajidat Primary School which has 900 students, the radiation level was three thousand times higher than normal.

Searching for play toys, two Iraqi boys ignore warning signs written by American troops to keep Iraqis away from a series of burnt U.S. ammunition trucks contaminated by U.S. Depleted Uranium (DU) bullets May 3, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq. Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images

Dr. Kadhem al-Miqdadi, a doctor and researcher specialized in health, environment, radiation pollution and biological damage to the use of uranium weapons told us about depleted uranium, saying: “It is nuclear waste, by-product of the natural uranium enrichment process to obtain the fissionable, highly radioactive U-235 isotope required in the production of atomic weapons and as fuel for nuclear reactors. Depleted uranium weapons also contain radioactive isotopes U-234 and U-238, as well as highly radioactive isotopes U-236, in addition to plutonium, americium and neptunium.

Regarding the limits of radioactive exposure to uranium and depleted uranium, Dr.Al-Miqdadi says that the 1996 Global Nuclear Safety Standards state that an individual’s radiation dose should not exceed 1 mSv/year. In certain cases, the effective dose may be allowed to reach 5 mSv for one year provided that the average dose is not more than 1 mSv/year for five consecutive years.

“The empty cartridge (after use) of a depleted uranium shot of a cigarette length, remains radioactive and emits radiation per day equal to or greater than what is allowed for an entire year”.

Regarding the radiation levels of uranium shells, Al-Miqdadi asserts that one milligram of the U-238 isotope emits more than a million particles of alpha per day, in addition to beta and gamma rays. The empty cartridge (after use) of a depleted uranium shot of a cigarette length, remains radioactive and emits radiation per day equal to or greater than what is allowed for an entire year.

We asked Dr. Kadhem al-Miqdadi about the biological effect of these rays on the human body, his answer was: “The alpha particles emitted by depleted uranium can affect the synthesis of hypoxic DNA, the changes they cause can lead to cancer within months. In addition, when one particle of these rays settles in a lymph node, it can destroy the entire immune system, resulting in serious cancers and fetal abnormalities”.

Al-Miqdadi criticizes the Iraqi authorities’ silence on the environmental disaster in Iraq, and he goes further by accusing them of collusion with the World Health Organization (WHO) to withhold the terrifying facts about increasing rates of cancer and birth defects due to radioactive contamination: “The Ministry of Health not only prevented and threatened doctors from giving any information or numbers that reveal the deteriorating health situation, nor by publishing misleading information about it, but also colluded with the WHO to withhold a study by the Finnish scholar Keith Baverstock the Senior expert of radiation protection at WHO, Which included 10800 families from 6 Iraqi governorates and lasted for 3 years, and it has proven beyond any doubt that inhaling the depleted uranium dust particles generates genetic toxic effects on the DNA in the cell, and it spreads by breathing from the lung to the parts of the body through the blood, and causes severe damage to the bone marrow, lymphatic system and kidneys. And in protest against the study’s blocking, Baverstock left the WHO.”

Genetic abnormalities

The statistics and testimonies we have obtained show a wide discrepancy between the figures in the annual reports of the Ministry of Health and the numbers of hospitals with regard to the numbers and rates of birth defects, for example, in its 2017 report, the Ministry of Health states that it has reported 85 birth defects in Anbar province (which includes 9 cities), while in a testimony we received from former Fallujah hospital media director Nazim al-Hadidi said the hospital had registered 275 Congenital malformation, this number is in the city of Fallujah alone, as well as in its reports for 2015 and 2016, the ministry did not provide any figures or ratios of birth defects in Anbar province.

Iraqi births with birth defects, pictures obtained from a special source in the Ministry of Health

In 2004, congenital malformations accounted for 8.9% of all births in Iraq, Baghdad ranked first with 26.5% of the total distorted births followed by Nineveh province with 23% followed by Basra province with 11.7% and Babylon with 6% . The distortions in the rest of the 13 governorates ranged from 1.1% to 5.3%, with the exception of Anbar, which did not have any statistics until 2008 because of the security situation that was then outside the control of the State and the coalition forces.

According to Ministry of Health figures, the rate of congenital malformations decreased slightly in 2005 to 7.9%. This decline continued in 2006 to 7.6%, then 6.9% in 2007 and continued to decrease in 2008 to 6.2%. Congenital anomalies rank third in the 10 leading to the death of births in Iraq.

In the following years, congenital malformations in births rose dramatically to 7.4% in 2009 and increased to 11.8% in 2010 ,continued to rise in 2011 by 13%, while in 2012 recorded 14.2% and the maximum in 2013 to record birth defects 15.6% of the total births in Iraq, between 2014 and 2018, official statistics from the Ministry of Health cannot be relied on because ISIS has full control over three Iraqi governorates, Anbar, Nineveh and Salah al-Din, and its control over large parts of Diyala and Kirkuk governorates.

Iraqi births with birth defects, pictures obtained from a special source in the Ministry of Health

In order to know the tragedy closely, we headed to the city of Fallujah, the second largest city of Anbar province, and the most famous Iraqi cities after 2003, and its fame comes from two major battles fought by the US military to control the city in 2004, failed in the first battle, but in the second managed to enter the city after a war that destroyed 70% of the city’s infrastructure, and accusations of using internationally prohibited weapons such as depleted uranium, white phosphorus and cluster bombs.

At the Fallujah Teaching Hospital, a special department for congenital malformations was inaugurated, we were prevented from entering, except with a written permission from the Minister of Health Alaa al-Din Alwan, and many doctors refrained from giving us their testimony because they were not authorized to. In Anbar province in particular, the Ministry of Health and its departments reserve information on rates of birth defects and cancer, or talk about levels of radioactive contamination, but with the help of doctors who spoke on condition of anonymity, we were able to get 350 images of children and fetuses with severe birth defects, Dr. Samira Al-Ani, a member of the congenital malformations committee at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Fallujah, agreed to give us her testimony about the rates of birth defects documented in the hospital’s records.

Dr. Samira Al-Ani confirms that the deformities in the births of the city of Fallujah are more than 14 times the congenital malformations in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in just two years, Al-Ani said, she documented 699 cases of malformation. When asked about the extent to which deformation rates are associated with radioactive contamination, Al-Ani confirmed that they searched for toxic metals in samples taken from births with congenital malformation and samples from their families (father, mother, or both) and found high levels of uranium, mercury, lead and other metals.

Al-Ani spoke about the lack of studies and statistics on increasing the rates of abnormalities in the births of the city of Fallujah, it reported that the most recent survey was in 2011, documenting a significant increase in birth defects of 147 out of every 1,000 newborns.

“Malformations in Fallujah births are 14 times more than birth defects in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”.

The former director of the media of Fallujah Hospital, Nazim Al-Hadidi, while talking to him about the rates and statistics of congenital malformations in Fallujah, told us about what hasn’t been told in the story, he told us that the Director of Anbar Health Department Dr.Khudair Khalaf Shalal and in cooperation with Dr. Allawi al-Issawi, director of the women’s and children’s hospital in Fallujah canceled the role of the Committee of Congenital Malformations, which was responsible for documenting the deformities and archived in private records, they also prevented doctors and the hospital media from making any statements about this matter, and stated that Anbar Health Department opened an investigative board with him because he made statements to the The Independent in 2013.

Al-Hadidi, who was transferred from Fallujah Hospital to Karma City Hospital (30 kilometers northeast of Fallujah), disputed the statistics of the Ministry of Health. “The Ministry of Health’s statistics do not represent the truth. They do not represent 50% of the truth, they cover up the real numbers because they are disastrous.” he says. He adds: “The community of Fallujah is witnessing a great reluctance to have children and even marriage after the increasing birth defects that occur in the city.”

The photographs we obtained from the Fallujah hospital archive date from 2008 to 2019 (except for 2014, 2015 and 2016 for which no information or images are available due to ISIS’s control of the city at that time). The images show births and embryos with birth defects including rabbit lip abnormalities, one eye in the middle of the face, enlargement of the limbs, as well as encephalocele, the face without eyes or nose, a deformed skeleton, and other defects.

Congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah, video obtained from a special source in Fallujah Hospital.

One of the few studies conducted on the Fallujah community was “Cancer, fetal mortality and gender ratio in Fallujah“, Conducted in 2010 by a team of researchers at the British Green Audit, led by Professor Kris Busby from the University of Ulster, who was then the scientific secretary of the European Commission on Radiation Risk.

The study included 711 families in Falluja with 4,843 people. The families were randomly selected for more accurate results, according to Chris Busby, the results were shocking, the cancer, infant mortality and sex ratio were similar in Hiroshima after the fall of the atomic bomb, the study documented a 40-times increase in leukemia, especially among young people and those under the age of 35, a tentimes increase in breast cancer among women, and a significant increase in lymphoma, which affects lymph nodes due to inhalation of radioactive substances, or because of other substances that affect the genetic makeup, according to the results, cancer diseases were about 4.5 times higher than normal.

Infant mortality also witnessed a significant increase in Fallujah during the period covered by the study, where the mortality rate was 80 cases per 1000 births. The study compared this mortality rate in Kuwait and Egypt for the same period, where it reached 9 deaths per 1000 births in Kuwait, while in Egypt there were 19 deaths per 1000 births.

An Iraqi child from Fallujah is suffering from birth defects, the picture we got from a private source in Fallujah Hospital

Gulf War Syndrome

Slightly backward, specifically on April 18/1998, Haaretz newspaper published a report documenting the testimonies of US military officials and veterans about the numbers of wounded soldiers participating in the Desert Storm war of 1991, and according to the testimony of the former US Minister of Justice Ramsey Clark, the number of people infected with  strange diseases about 90 thousand soldiers, out of a total of 700 thousand soldiers participated in that war, and these diseases were called “the Gulf War syndrome.”

The translated report, published by Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, also documented a poll conducted by the newspaper The Nation in 1996, in which 10051 American soldiers participated with strange diseases after the Gulf War in 1991, where the poll showed that 82 percent of them entered the Iraqi tanks bombed depleted uranium.

The number of those afflicted with Gulf War Syndrome reached 175,000 soldiers, according to a report prepared by the Consultative Research Committee on Veterans Diseases in the United States, published by Reuters in 2008, and the commission’s report concluded that “Scientific evidence leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition with real causes and serious consequences for affected veterans”.

American soldiers are not the only ones suffering from Gulf War syndrome. According to the Royal Veterans Association in Britain, 33,000 British soldiers who participated in Desert Storm are infected with the disease, and the British Ministry of Defense has acknowledged that consensus on the presence of these strange symptoms makes this illness as a Syndrome”.

Symptoms of the Gulf War syndrome include: lung, bone, and liver cancer, skin rashes, breathing problems, kidney failure, as well as limb numbness and muscle pain, chronic headache, chronic diarrhea, and problems with digestion and breathing.

In the October 21, 1996 issue, The Nation newspaper quoted American sources as saying that the M1-Abrams tanks fired 14,000 large uranium shells, while the A-10 aircraft launched about 1,000,000 small shells, which showed great ability to penetrate the most powerful and durable tanks and armor.

The Haaretz report revealed a dramatic incident that occurred during the Desert Storm war of 1991, where it was stated that a fire broke out in a non-condensed uranium warehouse next to an American army camp in Kuwait, and devoured 3.5 tons of uranium, but no one was bothered by the smoke cloud that rose over the camp ,and dozens of American tanks were injured by that friendly fire, and the radioactive contamination was transferred to the bodies of many soldiers who contributed of preparing these burning tanks for shipment to the United States of America.

First Gulf War veterans march during a protest to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of the Gulf War on February 28, 2011, in London, England. Photo by Dan Kitwood – Getty Images

Thousands of sites contaminated with radiation

Although the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) confirms the presence of thousands of sites contaminated with ionizing radiation in Iraq, however, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Science and Technology acknowledged the existence of 300-365 sites contaminated with radiation, in Baghdad, for example, the Ministry of Science and Technology acknowledged the presence of 40 contaminated sites, the most dangerous sites Tuwaitha and Aweerij, while saying that Basra contains 23 sites contaminated with radiation, 20 sites in Nasiriyah and 20 sites in Babylon, 16 sites in Diyala, 14 sites in Maysan, 3 sites in Muthanna, and two sites in Nineveh, Adaya and Al Jazeera, have been looted and exhume the radioactive nuclear waste embedded there.

In order to obtain more accurate information about the coordinates of the sites that were not included in the data of the Ministry of Science and Technology, such as contaminated sites in the province of Anbar, Najaf, Karbala and Amara, we went to the ministry headquarters in Baghdad, and asked to meet the minister, but refused to meet us, Ministry officials refused to give us any statement on the grounds that it was a matter of national security, but we were able to obtain a confidential letter from the Ministry of Science and Technology, specifically the Radioactive Waste Treatment and Management Directorate, to the Iron and Steel Factory in Basra, the letter states to transfer “treated waste ” from the plant site in Basra to the proposed storage site via the international road in Anbar province, and the letter signed on 12/5/2019 by Majed Shannon Khalaf, supervisor of nuclear activities.

To find out what the toxic and radioactive waste was, we met with Iraqi MP Anbar Yahya Ghazi, who previously served as director of the Office of the Minister of Science and Technology, and told us that the waste was military junk and spare parts contaminated with ionizing radiation from the wars of 1991 and 2003.

A confidential letter from the Ministry of Science and Technology to the Iron and Steel Factory in Basra for the transfer of treated waste to Anbar province.


In the city of Ramadi (108 km west of Baghdad), where the local government headquarters of Anbar province, we met with the President of the Anbar Provincial Council, Ahmed Hameed Sharqi, to know where the proposed site for the transfer of radioactive waste , and how they dealt with the confidential letter of the Ministry of Science and Technology, he told us that the proposed site was in the area between the city of Fallujah and Lake Tharthar, and showed us a letter issued a month after the letter of the Ministry of Science and Technology, he said that this letter was addressed by the local authority in Anbar to the Anbar Operations Command, the Police Command, the National Security Service and the Anbar Environment Directorate to prevent the entry of such toxic waste to the borders of Anbar province, which caused great harm to the lives of citizens and the environment.

A letter issued by the Anbar Provincial Council to prevent the entry of treated waste referred to in the confidential letter of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

We tried to get information from the US Embassy in Baghdad about the quantities of uranium used in the wars of 1991 and 2003 and the coordinates of the bombing, and US maps of sites contaminated with ionizing radiation, in relation to high rates of cancer and birth defects, however, we did not get a response; however, part of the GPS coordinates of locations targeted with DU in 2003 were given by the US Department of Defense to the Dutch army based in Muthanna province in southern Iraq as part of the international coalition forces. These coordinates belonged exclusively to radioactive contaminated sites in that province, and the Dutch army handed those coordinates to the Dutch Peace Organization (PAX), which they included in a study published in 2014.

In 2003, New scientist Magazine published a US Defense Department research paper, during which it stated that the United States and Britain used 320 tons of depleted uranium munitions during the 1991 Gulf War, and the paper also stated that the US military used two thousand tons Depleted uranium munitions during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In June of the same year, Damas Lopez, head of the “International Depleted Uranium Study Group” (ADUST) presented a research paper he read in the European Parliament in Brussels, in which he stated that the United States used depleted uranium on a large scale during its wars in Iraq, and the Dutch Nuclear Research Foundation (LAKA) estimated that the amount of depleted uranium used in the 1991 Gulf War was more than 800 tons.

In the same year that the 1991 Gulf War ended, a secret report issued by the British Nuclear Energy Agency was leaked, and the Independent newspaper published it at the time, saying that the uranium that remained in Iraq could cause the death of 500,000 people, and after five years of leaking the report, specifically in October 21, 1996 The Nation magazine reported that this figure was calculated on the assumption that the remaining in Iraq is 40 tons, not 320 tons of depleted uranium.

In order to prevent its spread and use, in 2003 a global coalition formed of more than 160 organizations, from 34 countries, called the International Alliance to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW). This coalition was able on several occasions – the last of which was in 2014 – to introduce a draft law at the United Nations to prevent the use of Weapons made of depleted uranium. However, the vote by the United States, Britain, France, and Israel against it every time hindered the ban on the use of depleted uranium weapons.

*The investigation was completed with the support of “NIRIJ” network for investigative journalism, and its full version was published on “SasaPost” website, and a short version of the investigation has been published on “Daraj” website and others.

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