Search For Chemical Weapons

Jim Axelrod, Iraq, Night vision
CBS
For the first time since the war began, U.S. forces are beginning to focus on one of the main objectives of the military action, finding and destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - weapons the country claims to no longer hold.

Forces entered battle expecting to face chemical or biological weapons but so far have seen none. But, as American troops approach Baghdad, there's speculation that Saddam Hussein may be preparing to finally use chemical weapons.

With the Third Infantry Division on their march north of Iraq, a lot of intelligence work is being done after interviewing EPWs, enemy prisoners of war, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod.

One interview yielded a tip from an Iraqi officer who said that Americans should check a munitions dump of conventional weapons.

Iraqis have been told to "guard the dump because we don't want people finding out what's inside." That was the quote relayed to Axelrod by an American officer.

Outside this munitions depot, Axelrod watched American Foxes, armored vehicles with the latest in chemical detection equipment, mechanically sniffing in the area around this munitions depot.

Standing at about two to three miles away, the Foxes could get initial readings from sensors that can read up to five kilometers, or a little more than three miles, away.

What troops are looking for, Axelrod said, is something to either confirm or disprove the theory that there are chemical weapons there. None had been found so far.

At a Coalition Forces Briefing, Gen. Tommy Franks said Monday from Doha, Qatar, it is too early for U.S. forces to expect to find weapons of mass destruction.

"This is work we called SSE, sensitive site exploitation," he said. "And we will do some sensitive site exploitation as we go along. And we'll do other sensitive site exploitation a bit later in the campaign."

Meanwhile, CBS News Correspondent Phil Ittner reports that Army doctors who treated some Iraqi prisoners of war, believed to be some high-ranking Iraqi officials, found Cipro pills among the Iraqis' personal possessions.

Cipro is meant to ward off the effects of a biological attack from several toxic agents, foremost among them, anthrax.