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Report: The Remains Of Some Sept. 11 Victims Were Dumped In Landfill

In a report released by the Pentagon today, the government admits that a contractor dumped some of the remains of Sept. 11 victims in a landfill.

According to the report, the remains "that could neither be tested nor identified" from victims of the attack on the Pentagon and the Shanksville, Pa. crash were first taken to Dover Air Force Base, cremated by a contractor, returned to the base, where they were handed over to a "biomedical waste disposal contractor," which incinerated the remains.

The Pentagon believed nothing would be left over after the incineration, but some material remained and the contractor took that to the landfill.

The revelation was constrained to one paragraph in a report on mortuary operations at Dover. The report was ordered after The Washington Post revealed that "portions of remains of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in a Virginia landfill."

In its story today, The Washington Post reports:

"The practice involved unidentified or unclaimed body parts; it was not made known to troops' family members.

"The Air Force later admitted that it had dumped the incinerated partial remains of at least 274 service members in the landfill between 2003 and 2008, when the practice ended. At the time, Air Force officials said their records only went back to 2003 and that they did not know when the landfill dumping began."

The report says the practice of dumping remains in a landfill started "shortly after September 11, 2001, when several portions of remains from the Pentagon attack and the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, crash site could not be tested or identified."

The policy ended in 2008 and a new policy, in which the remains are "cremated and retired at sea" was instituted in 2009.

DoD Buzz, a blog that covers the Pentagon, was at the press conference where Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, who led the review, introduced the report.

When pressed about the Sept. 11 remains, Abizaid, reports DoD Buzz, said it was not the "focus" of the probe.

But he said that on the broader point of handling the remains of fallen soldiers, the Pentagon needed "nuclear surety" and this needed to be a "100 percent no-fail mission."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.