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Between five and ten former weapons scientists have been killed in Iraq in the past six months, according to an official from the US Department of State (DoS). It is thought that assassins are targeting the scientists for showing interest in working with the occupying coalition.

The DoS has set up a US$2 million programme aimed at identifying former weapon scientists and finding them work in Iraq. But non-proliferation experts are now calling for the scientists to be evacuated from the country instead.

The DoS has drawn up a list of 400 researchers who worked on weapons programmes and related fields but 75 per cent have yet to be accounted for. There are fears that scientists who worked on Iraq's former chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes have secret documents and could go to Iran or Syria.

Reference: Nature 429, 115 (2004)

Link to full news story in Nature