News Release

No. 410-98
IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 4, 1998 (703)697-5737(public/industry)


In 1993, the Czech government acknowledged a nerve agent detection that occurred during the Gulf War near Hafar al Batin on January 19, 1991, and a report of discolored sand near King Khalid Military City on January 24, 1991. Both detections occurred in Saudi Arabia and noted concentrations of chemical agents far below levels considered life threatening or hazardous to troops in the area. The United States cannot independently verify the Czech reports, however, the Department of Defense is confident in the Czechs' ability to detect the presence of chemical agents. In November 1993, the DoD assessed these two detections as valid and the Central Intelligence Agency assessed the detections as credible in 1996. The current investigation by the office of the special assistant for Gulf War illnesses has not found any additional evidence that would change DoD and CIA's initial assessment of these detections.

Five other reports by the Czechs and French in late January 1991 have been assessed as "Indeterminate" because there is insufficient information to make a clear determination. The first of two other reported detections by Czech units involved a detection of mustard vapor by a Czech unit near KKMC on January 19th. Although personnel involved reported the detection of mustard agent by the CHP-71, a Czech chemical agent detector, they were unable to independently confirm the presence of mustard using other detection protocols. The second of these Czech detections, which was recorded in Gulf War logs but has not been acknowledged by the Czech government, occurred on January 20th. It involved a Czech unit, in direct support of the French, that detected the presence of Tabun and Sarin. Other confirmatory details, such as the location of the unit, were not provided in the log entry. Based on the lack of confirmatory tests and no obvious source for the chemical agents detected, as well as the fact that the Czech government has never acknowledged these detections nor provided additional information about them, these detections have been assessed as "Indeterminate."

The DoD also investigated three reported detections by French units during the Gulf War. Despite an extensive effort, the DoD has not discovered any possible source for the three reports. No information is available from the French government about the detections, or their chemical detection equipment, preventing a complete assessment of the chemical detection capabilities of the French forces. Consequently, these detections are assessed as "Indeterminate." A fourth detection reported by the French was also one of the detections reported by the Czech unit.

"Given our state of knowledge, we just don't know enough to make a determination, consequently, we are calling these detections "Indeterminate," said Dr. Bernard Rostker, the Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Gulf War Illnesses.

For more information on this or other Gulf War illnesses issues, see GulfLINK, an interactive Internet side, at http://www/