Iraq, the situation

Date 20-Mar-2003 10:46:18
Topic: News

British troops 'ready to go'

UK troops have moved through Kuwait to the Iraqi border
British troops are waiting at Iraq's southern border following US-led missile strikes on and around Baghdad.
The US began "limited" strikes against the Iraqi capital at about 0230 GMT - 0530 local time - 90 minutes after the passing of its deadline for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq.

UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon confirmed the first attacks were targeting the Iraqi leadership and suggested the main offensive would begin "very shortly".

Mr Hoon, who will make a statement in the House of Commons later on Thursday, said British forces had been involved in some "preparatory operations" overnight.

There are also reports Britain has asked its Nato ally Turkey for permission for British jets to use Turkish airspace to launch attacks on Iraq.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had contacted Ankara overnight, but refused to reveal details of the conversation.

This was not a drill, it could have been a real live chemical attack

Lieutenant Sean Tully

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The RAF's Wing Commander Dave Bye says its aircraft have not yet been involved in offensive action but could be sent on operations "within 24 hours".

Suggestions that the initial strikes came as a surprise to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) were rejected by Mr Hoon.

He said Britain had been "well aware of the target", adding that there was "full openness and consultation between the alliance members".

He added that UK forces were in a "high state of readiness".

British experts at Central Command have been assessing the impact of the overnight air strike on five senior members of Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad.

Surprise attack

One source said vehicles as well as buildings had been targeted in the attack, which involved 36 cruise missiles and four 2000lb bunker busting bombs launched from six US ships.

British forces in northern Kuwait are currently on a chemical and biological alert, according to BBC correspondents.

BBC correspondent Tim Franks said this was believed to be the first suspected chemical or biological attack alert.

He said: "We heard a couple of thumps which might have been artillery and shouts of gas, gas, gas. We put respirators and gas masks on and ran to the nearest bunker and put on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons suits.

Troops told 'be just and strong'
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"There is no evidence that this is an attack. The army is erring of course on the side of caution."

Downing Street said Tony Blair had been alerted to the strikes on Baghdad just after midnight (GMT).

The prime minister and key ministers of the war cabinet met at Downing Street on Thursday morning and a full cabinet meeting is now taking place.

The Foreign Office has warned Britons around the world to be vigilant against terrorist attacks.

There is an "especially high risk" of indiscriminate terrorist attacks in public places on UK citizens, it warns.

Just before the war began, British troops were warned some might not make it home.

The warring parties have obligations under international law to avoid civilian casualties

Christian Aid, Cafod, Oxfam, Save the Children and Action Aid

"There may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign," said Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins, commander of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish.

"We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back. There will be no time for sorrow."

He urged troops to behave like liberators not conquerors, saying: "If you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory."

'Day of shame'

The beginning of war brought condemnation from several quarters.

Aid agencies urged the UK to take "all possible precautions" to avoid civilian casualties.

Our government should not have been a party to this conflict which has only undermined the United Nations, our own democracy and the rule of law

Iqbal Sacranie, Muslim Council of Britain

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Christian Aid, Cafod, Oxfam, Save the Children and Action Aid, also called for a "massive" increase in government funding to help with a possible humanitarian crisis.

The Muslim Council of Britain condemned the action, saying in a statement that it undermined the United Nations, democracy and the rule of law.

And the Stop the War Coalition called it a "day of shame" for Britain.

On Wednesday, US and British planes bombed for the first time long-range Iraqi artillery which threatened ground forces in the southern no-fly zone.

The MoD called the action "standard no-fly zone activity".

This article comes from AmigaWorld - Amiga Community Portal

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