http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/03/31/1080544556813.html?from=storyrhs Secret bunkers held chemical weapons, says Iraqi exile April 1, 2004 A scientist describes Saddam's weapons and stealth technology programs, reports Russell Skelton. For seven years, before he was tortured and sentenced to death, Rashid (not his real name) worked at the top of Iraq's scientific establishment. He says he regularly met Saddam Hussein and his cousin and strongman deputy prime minister Abdul Tawab Huweish. After the Gulf War he was put in charge of a taskforce code named "Al Babel" to develop stealth technology to make aircraft and missiles undetectable on radar. Rashid, who now lives in Melbourne, also claims to have had access as a trusted insider to secret underground bunkers where chemical weapons were stored. "Saddam gave me access to everything, he was so desperate to perfect the stealth technology," he says. Now Rashid's great fear is that Saddam loyalists still active in postwar Iraq may get to the chemicals and weapons he saw hidden away before fleeing for his life. "If those weapons still exist, the worry is that they will be used against the Iraqi people, the US forces or even sold off to al-Qaeda. Maybe those weapons no longer exist, but I find it hard to believe they could disappear so easily," he says. Rashid's days of working at the top came to an abrupt end in 1998 when he was arrested with a group of other scientists and army officers on charges of plotting to remove Saddam. He was taken to a high-security jail in the centre of Baghdad, run by the Mukhabarat (secret police), where he was tortured for three weeks, suffering severe spinal injuries. Rashid was then transferred to the Abu Ghraib jail outside Baghdad for execution. "Each morning prisoners were executed. Some were shot and some were hung. I could see the executions from my cell window. You lived in a constant state of terror because you never knew who was next." Rashid says he escaped when a high-ranking military officer and close friend bribed the guards to swap his file with that of an executed prisoner. "On visiting day I just walked out. Everything had been arranged; I had false travel documents that got me and my family across the border to Syria," he says. Rashid's problems did not end there. The Iraqi secret police came looking for him at Damascus University where he taught physics part time, and he fled to Melbourne on an Emirates flight. He says he left his wife and family behind because the family had money to buy only a single ticket and at that stage he was the one whose life was in immediate danger. Rashid has told The Age he knows of five secret storage bunkers around Baghdad, Basra and Tikrit, three of which he visited regularly as a top scientist and senior employee of Iraq's now defunct Atomic Energy Commission. One, he says, was under an island in the Tigris River near Saddam University. Another was beneath the house of one of Saddam's cousins, and reached by a tunnel with a hidden entrance 800 metres away. He described the bunkers as being built 15 metres underground, of reinforced concrete, and multi-storeyed. "Between these layers, pipes would rise up, through the building above to provide access for ventilation. "The lethal chemicals were stored in drums and the bunkers were air-conditioned. But there were also artillery shells and 122-millimetre rockets armed with chemicals." He says the sites had been built using foreign construction companies, including a company from China, and that nobody was allowed to approach without authorisation and extensive ID checks by the Special Republican Guard. Rashid says meeting Saddam was always a bizarre experience. "Suddenly his people would appear unannounced. They would take you to a location and examine you carefully: mouth, hands, eyes and ears. Then you would be taken to another place and checked again. This could happen up to three times. Finally he would come into the room." Rashid says Saddam was moody but was always on top of what was discussed, and read all scientific reports sent to him. "Nothing ever happened unless he approved it. That included the purchase of special equipment, sending people overseas to be trained. If you told him a project would take six months to complete, he would want it in four months." After arriving in Australia, Rashid was issued with a temporary protection visa. Even though Rashid's wife and four children have been processed and found to be refugees by the UNHCR in Syria, they remain stranded there. Australia's immigration laws prevent TPV holders access to family reunion and they have not been issued with a visa. Although Rashid is known to authorities in Australia, he asked that his real name not be published, to protect him and his family from Saddam loyalists still active in Iraqi communities in and outside Australia. "It's still too dangerous for us to speak out; I don't know who to trust. There are former army officers living in Australia who were close to Saddam," he says.