- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2002

TOOELE, Utah (AP) An Army depot where nerve gas and other chemical weapons are stored sounded a terrorist alert yesterday after four soldiers reported seeing a potential intruder.

Col. Peter Cooper, commander of the Deseret Chemical Depot, said the person was spotted within the heavily guarded perimeter by the soldiers during two separate patrols and fled when the soldiers approached.

By late afternoon, officials still were searching the depot grounds for the person.

"At this time, we cannot confirm an intruder," Col. 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."

In Washington, a senior administration official speaking on condition of anonymity said there was no evidence that anything was stolen or that terrorism was involved.

The apparent trespasser, dressed in dark clothing, was within a fenced area between the stored chemicals and the outer perimeter, authorities said. Col. Cooper said the security of the depot was never at risk.

"We're talking about the outer boundary he never got close to the chemical storage area at all," Col. Cooper said.

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

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

Earlier this year, it finished destroying the largest stockpile of sarin nerve gas in the United States. It is scheduled to destroy 1,300 tons of VX, a more toxic but less volatile nerve agent, and 6,100 tons of mustard gas, a blister agent that can dissolve tissue on contact.

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