Wednesday, October 08, 2003

The United States military has been unable to locate a large number of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles that were part of the arsenal of Saddam Hussein, officials say, compounding the security risks for airports and airlines in Iraq and around the world.

The lack of accounting for the missiles — officials say there could be hundreds — is the primary reason the occupation authorities have not yet reopened the Baghdad International Airport to commercial traffic, officials said. The terminal has been rebuilt and the runways repaired, and Australian soldiers are running the air traffic control system.

But portable missiles were fired at incoming planes several times in recent weeks, one senior official said. Most of those incidents have not been reported to the public. The missiles missed their targets widely, suggesting that the people who fired them had not been extensively trained.

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