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(NEWSER) – US troops headed into Iraq more than a decade ago to hunt down weapons of mass destruction, but they found something else instead: massive numbers of chemical weapons, which injured soldiers and prompted a possible Pentagon cover-up, the New York Times reports.

In a stunning narrative based on interviews and documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the Times reveals that between 2004 and 2011, American soldiers and American-trained Iraqis found about 5,000 chemical weapons from Saddam Hussein's days; 24 of the troops were exposed to mustard gas or nerve agents, with at least six injuries (and that's just based on the Times' reporting, not on still-classified government info).

Soldiers say they were told to toe the government line in reporting their findings—or rather, not reporting them—a directive they say kept them from receiving proper treatment and public acknowledgment of their wounds. Perhaps most nerve-wracking: ISIS is now in charge of most of the area where the chemical weapons were reportedly found.

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