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[casi] News, 19-26/03/03 (1)

News, 19-26/03/03 (1)


*  Nuclear inspectors reportedly angry
*  Blix: Iraq Won't Use Chemical Weapons
*  U.S. Plans Hunt for Iraqi Bio-Weapons
*  USA lied about Iraq's weapons
*  CIA voiced doubts about Iraq's uranium purchases
*  Soldiers 'find huge chemical arms plant'


*  Seven crew killed in helicopter crash
*  Missing ITN crew may have come under 'friendly fire'
*  'Iraqis unable to reach refugee camp in Jordan'    
*  British plane shot down by U.S. missile
*  One killed, 12 injured by 'resentful' Muslim GI
*  US missile hits bus, killing five Syrian civilians
*  'Friendly fire' kills two more UK troops
*  Second Officer Dies From Sunday's Grenade Attack


by Dan Stober
Mercury News, 18th March

As United Nations nuclear inspectors flee Iraq, some of them are angry at
the Bush administration for cutting short their work, bad-mouthing their
efforts and making false claims about evidence of weapons of mass

Some inspectors are "scandalized" at the way President Bush and Secretary of
State Colin Powell, among others, have "politicized" the inspection process,
said a source close to the inspectors.

None of the nuclear-related intelligence trumpeted by the administration has
held up to scrutiny, inspectors say. From suspect aluminum tubes to aerial
photographs to documents  - revealed to be forgeries -- that claimed to link
Iraq to uranium from Niger, inspectors say they chased U.S. leads that went
nowhere and wasted valuable time in their efforts to determine the extent of
Saddam Hussein's arsenal of weapons banned after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The administration said the Iraqi aluminum tubes were uniquely suited for
centrifuges to make bomb-grade uranium. But U.N. officials argue that the
Iraqi explanation -- that the tubes were destined to become artillery
rockets -- was more plausible. Moreover, the source close to inspectors
said, the U.S. military uses similar tubes for a rocket known as the Hydra

In October the White House released aerial photos of activity at former
Iraqi nuclear facilities. The inspectors, however, found no sign of weapons
activity and suggested that Saddam was not likely to reuse known nuclear

In February the administration said trucks were spotted at facilities
shortly before the arrival of inspectors, apparently to haul away and hide
banned equipment. But in one case, according to a U.N. official, the trucks
were fire engines standing by the building for safety reasons.

In the case of the Niger documents, they appeared genuine at first glance --
accurate nomenclature, proper stamps -- but further study turned up crude
errors, such as words misspelled in French and dates that did not match the
day of the week. Who created the counterfeit documents remains a mystery.

Recent inspection teams have included a new batch of U.S. nuclear scientists
from Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories. The U.N.
official described these inspectors as arriving as hawks and leaving as
doves, after finding Iraq "a ruined country, not a threat to anyone." It is
a view radically different than the administration's.

The nuclear inspectors trudged through the Iraqi countryside for months.
They found the Iraqi weapons infrastructure, built at great expense in the
1980s, to be in a state of decay. They sought out out-of-the-way machine
shops or companies where Iraqi scientists might be congregated. But they
found no sign of an organized nuclear weapons program.

At the most, the U.N. official said, there may be "a few guys with paper and
pencil and some computer in a back room."

Responding to the U.S. emphasis on underground facilities, the inspectors
slugged through the mud beneath a petroleum plant and paid a visit to an
irrigation reservoir carved into the inside of a mountain. Neither contained
anything suspicious.

The nuclear inspectors -- the International Atomic Energy Agency's Iraq
Action Team -- are lead by a Frenchman, Jacques Baute. Under his direction
the team has focused on unraveling the clandestine Iraqi procurement
networks that imported nuclear weapons technology in the 1980s and the
aluminum tubing more recently.

During unannounced visits to trading companies, the inspectors used special
equipment to copy the hard drives of computers. Among the thousands of files
they found some leads, as well as pornography.

Traders in the procurement networks, the inspectors discovered, have been
using their positions to steal oil-for-food money and shift the stolen
profits out of the country. For example, a $100,000 purchase of humanitarian
goods from Jordan might be inflated to $200,000, with the extra money split
between the Iraqi buyer and the Jordanian seller.

Some of the inspectors leave with a deep suspicion of U.S. motives. Some
believe, for example, that recent flights of U.S. U-2 spy planes were
intended to help the military draw up target lists, not to aid the
inspectors in their search for weapons of mass destruction.,1280,-2490853,00.html

The Guardian, 19th March

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Tuesday he
does not believe Iraq will use chemical or biological weapons during a war,
even though it can produce warheads and deadly agents to fill them.

The reason, he said, was world opinion would turn in favor of the United
States if Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction.

And even on the brink of defeat, when using such weapons might be a last
resort, Saddam's government would still care about public opinion, Blix
said. "Some people care about their reputation even after death," he said.

Blix gave a news conference as the Security Council prepared to hold an open
meeting Wednesday, attended by five foreign ministers, to discuss his list
of key remaining disarmament tasks for Iraq and what the United Nations can
do to provide humanitarian relief when war begins.

The council session will take place hours before the expiration of President
Bush's 48-hour deadline for Saddam and his sons to leave Iraq or face
military action.

The 15 members agreed Tuesday they were ready to discuss proposals by
Secretary-General Kofi Annan to deal with the humanitarian situation in

About 60 percent of Iraq's 22 million people rely on the U.N. oil-for-food
program, in which Iraqi oil sales fund food, medicine and other humanitarian
supplies. New arrangements would be needed if the Iraqi government falls.

Blix's list of a dozen questions that Iraq must answer to prove it is
disarming peacefully has been eclipsed by the looming war and the withdrawal
of U.N. inspectors, but Germany's U.N. Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said it
still "makes sense" for the council to discuss and adopt it.

"The system of inspections is now suspended but not abolished," he said. "We
will need the system of inspections after the war" because a 1999 U.N.
resolution foresees "that inspections, verification and monitoring would go
on after the disarmament of Iraq."

France, Russia and Germany, which led the opposition to a war against Iraq,
had pressed for Wednesday's council meeting to discuss a "realistic"
timetable to implement Blix's list on issues such as anthrax, VX nerve
agent, and Scud missiles.

Blix expressed disappointment that the United States, Britain and Spain had
decided so quickly that inspections weren't working. In the face of strong
council opposition, the three countries on Monday abandoned efforts to seek
Security Council backing for war.

When Resolution 1441 was adopted Nov. 8 giving Iraq a final opportunity to
disarm, Blix said he believed all council members were serious about
strengthening inspections and giving them a chance.

"But then some didn't have the patience a little earlier than others have
done, and I think that's a pity," he said.

During 3 months of inspections, Blix said, his teams found no evidence of
chemical or biological weapons.

Asked whether he believed Saddam would use such weapons, if he has them,
Blix said: "I think they would be able if the weapons were there - and I'm
not saying they are. And I'm not saying that they have means of delivery -
but they could have it. ... But I doubt that they would have the will to do

by Mark Fritz
Las Vegas Sun (from AP), 19th March

While Saddam Hussein is a target to be toppled, the other goal of the
U.S.-led military campaign is to embark on a scary scavenger hunt: finding
the elusive weapons that convinced the Bush administration to wage war in
the first place.

The aim is to get to the toxic arsenals before they can be deployed or
moved, and perhaps show the world evidence of a tangible threat that
justified war.

As a March 3 Defense Department report noted, "Though initial emphasis was
on the ouster of Saddam Hussein, the administration has more recently
pointed to weapons of mass destruction disarmament as its prime objective."

Any attacks on the Iraqi leadership and its command centers are expected to
be carried out in concert with seizures of suspected chemical and biological
weapons sites, along with oil fields. Burning oil would pose its own health
hazard if Saddam sets Iraq's 1,685 wells ablaze, as he did in occupied
Kuwait during his 1991 retreat.

Finding the weapons that have eluded U.N. inspectors carries huge practical
and political ramifications for the Bush administration. Failure to turn up
significant evidence of biological, chemical or nuclear arms research and
production would raise questions about a mission already condemned by much
of the world.

"The difficulty is a matter of intelligence," said Kelly Motz, an analyst at
a nonpartisan think tank called Iraq Watch. "To find it rapidly and destroy
it rapidly, you pretty much need to know where it is.

"It's definitely the right idea and the right strategy, but in terms of
carrying it out, you're going to need better intelligence than what I've
seen so far."

During the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the U.S.-led coalition was flummoxed by
Iraq's mobile Scud missile launchers, which constantly eluded detection. It
failed to locate any of them during the war, according to the Defense
Department report to Congress.

Failing to find significant evidence of biological and chemical arms would
mean one of two things: that U.S. claims they exist were exaggerated, or
that Saddam was successful in moving them out of the country. Iraq denies it
has any such weapons.

"If we find little evidence ... it's going to be an embarrassment," Motz
said. "They're banking that they are going to prove themselves. Either it's
not there, or it's been shipped across borders, which would mean that the
mission increased proliferation."

Disagreements over whether Iraq is indeed a threat that justifies war has
splintered alliances and left the United States without many of its
traditional allies as it enters a conflict.

"I'm among the people who are most curious to know" if an invasion will
uncover hidden weapons, Hans Blix, the most recent in a long line of U.N.
weapons inspectors, told CNN Wednesday.

Oppdatert: 19.03.2003, kl 11:45

Aftenposten (Norway), 19th March

A US-based Norwegian weapons inspector accuses the USA and Secretary of
State Colin Powell with providing the United Nations Security Council with
incorrect and misleading information about Iraq's possession of weapons of
mass destruction (WMD), newspaper Dagbladet reports.

Joern Siljeholm, Ph.D. in environmental chemistry, risk analysis and
toxicology, said that the USA's basis for going to war is thin indeed, and
called it a slap in the face to the United Nations weapons inspectors.

Siljeholm told Dagbladet that Colin Powell's report to the Security Council
on how Iraq camouflaged their WMD program was full of holes.

"Much of what he said was wrong. It did not match up at all with our
information. The entire speech was misleading," Siljeholm said.

Asked if the Americans lied, Siljeholm said: "Lie is a strong word - but
yes, the information Powell presented about Iraq's nuclear program was
simply incorrect," Siljeholm said.

"We received much incomplete and poor intelligence information from the
Americans, and our cooperation developed accordingly. Much of what has been
claimed about WMDs has proven to be sheer nonsense. From what I have seen
they are going to war on very little," Siljeholm told Dagbladet.

After 100 days in Iraq, Siljeholm, now a researcher at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology in Boston, is on holiday in Florida with his family.

"I strongly doubt that the American will find anything at all. In any case I
doubt that they will find WMDs that constitute a military threat," Siljeholm

Siljeholm said that his thoughts are now with the Iraqi people he met, and
who cooperated with the inspectors.

"It is a weary country with many weary people. The people want peace,"
Siljeholm said.

by Dana Priest and Karen DeYoung
Gulf News, from Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service, 24th March

Washington: CIA officials now say they communicated significant doubts to
the administration about the evidence backing up charges that Iraq tried to
purchase uranium from Africa for nuclear weapons, charges that found their
way into President Bush's State of the Union address, a State Department
"fact sheet" and public remarks by numerous senior officials.

That evidence was dismissed as a forgery early this month by United Nations
officials investigating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programmes. The
Bush administration does not dispute this conclusion.

Asked how the administration came to back up one of its principal
allegations against Iraq with information its own intelligence service
considered faulty, officials said all such assertions were carefully
tailored to stay within the bounds of certainty.

As for the State of the Union address, a White House spokesman said, "all
presidential speeches are fully vetted by the White House staff and relevant
U.S. government agencies for factual correctness."

Questioned about the forgery during a recent congressional hearing,
Secretary of State Colin Powell said, "We were aware of this piece of
evidence, and it was provided in good faith to the (UN) inspectors."

But in the days preceding the invasion of Iraq, some intelligence officials
had begun to acknowledge more openly their doubts about how this and other
information was used to support charges that Iraq has a significant covert
programme to produce weapons of mass destruction.

"I have seen all the stuff. I certainly have doubts," said a senior
administration official with access to the latest intelligence. Based on the
material he has reviewed, the official said, the United States will "face
significant problems in trying to find" such weapons. "It will be very

According to several officials, decisions about what information to
declassify and use to make the administration's public case have been made
by a small group that includes top CIA and National Security Council

"The policy guys make decisions about things like this," said one official,
referring to the uranium evidence. When the State Department "fact sheet"
was issued, the official said, "people winced and thought, 'Why are you
repeating this trash?"'

Some have questioned whether the United States was duped by a foreign
government or independent group.

by Gethin Chamberlain outside Basra and Paul Peachey
The Independent, 24th March

US forces were reported early today to have found a 100-acre chemical
weapons complex near the Iraqi city of Najaf.

Reports of the discovery of the plant by US infantry advancing on Baghdad
were treated with some scepticism last night. The former weapons inspector
Scott Ritter said the find was likely to be "much ado about nothing".

However, the claim came as British troops, mopping up Iraqi opposition
outside Basra, also discovered cruise missiles and warheads hidden inside
fortified bunkers.

The chemical weapons factory find was first reported by The Jerusalem Post
and Fox News, quoting unidentified Pentagon sources. The network reported
that a general in charge of the facility was being questioned. The complex
was found next to military barracks and surrounded by electrical fence. One
soldier was slightly wounded when a booby-trap exploded as he was clearing
the facility, the Post said.

Asked at a news conference in Qatar yesterday about the reports, Lt-Gen John
Abizaid of US Central Command declined to comment. He said top Iraqi
officers have been questioned about chemical weapons.

If the plant is confirmed as a factory, it would be the first find by the
US-led invasion force validating their allegations that Iraq still has
weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi officials have insisted they destroyed
all of the chemical and biological weapons they made after the 1991 Gulf War
- a claim UN weapons inspectors have questioned. A spokesman for the
inspectors said today they were not aware of any large sites that could be
used to make chemical weapons in the area.

Meanwhile, outside Basra, cases of rockets, giant anti-shipping mines and
other ammunition piled in dozens of bunkers were found at the Az-Zubayr

Some of the boxes were clearly marked with the names of British
manufacturers. One pile of boxes in a store housing rocket-propelled
grenades bears the name of Wallop Industries Limited, based in Middle
Wallop, Hampshire.

The most disturbing find was two Russian-made Al-Harith anti-shipping cruise
missiles (self-propelled guided missiles), each 20ft long and 3ft in
diameter, and nine warheads hidden in two enormous reinforced concrete

The scale of the find took British forces by surprise and raised questions
about the ability of weapons inspectors to cope with the task of scouring
such a vast country for prohibited ordnance. The discovery of the missiles -
date-marked 2002 - came as British troops from the Black Watch Regiment
fought to secure the area around Iraq's second city.

by Mark Huband, Security Correspondent
Financial Times, 25th March

Department of Defense officials said yesterday that no evidence of chemical
weapons production had been found at a facility close to the southern Iraqi
town of Najaf occupied by US forces on Sunday.

Forces from the US 3rd Infantry Division occupied the 100-acre site.
According to military officials, the site is surrounded by an electric fence
and the buildings within it are camouflaged, raising suspicions that it was
still in use. However, a Pentagon official said yesterday that the site had
probably been abandoned some time ago.

Two military sites described in a CIA assessment last year as part of Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction programme are now in territory occupied by US
and UK forces. Neither site - one at Nasiriya and the other at al-Khamisiya,
both in the southern part of the country - has so far provided evidence of
WMD production.

General Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces, said yesterday: "It's a
bit early for us to have any expectation of having found them . . . We'll
wait for the days ahead."

Responding to the first report of the Najaf site's alleged purpose, which
appeared in the Jerusalem Post, a senior western intelligence officer said
yesterday: "It's been in the interests of the Israelis to play up a whole
range of issues. A degree of healthy scepticism is very necessary."

Iraq is thought by intelligence services to have dispersed its chemical
weapons production among 16 sites, seven of which are around Baghdad.

Among the 2,000 Iraqi troops the US is now holding, several senior officers
- in particular, two army generals - are being interrogated with the
specific purpose of trying to establish a clearer picture of Iraq's WMD

Documents seized by US special forces who captured two airfields in western
Iraq at the weekend are also being examined for leads on the WMD arsenal, a
US military spokesman said.

The Najaf site did not figure in either the US or UK intelligence analyses
of suspected WMD sites issued last year to bolster the case against
President Saddam Hussein. Nor did United Nations weapons inspectors suspect
or visit the site during their mission to unearth Iraq's WMD arsenal.

Intelligence officers and military officials believe that Iraq has
successfully hidden a substantial amount of its WMD arsenal and research,
much of it buried and sealed. They are working on the basis that only the
occupation of substantial parts of the country will give them the
opportunity to prove that the WMD arsenal exists.

"I think we'll find weapons of mass destruction once we have had an
opportunity to occupy Baghdad, stabilise Iraq, talk to Iraqis that have
participated in the hiding and the development of it," said Lt Gen John
Abizaid of US Central Command.

Even so, the challenge to coalition forces to find the evidence with which
to justify the war to overthrow the regime is stark.

Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, said in the early hours of the
conflict: "The paradox is, if they don't find something then you have sent
250,000 men to wage war in order to find nothing."


by Nick Allen, PA News, at Central Command, Qatar
The Independent, 22nd March

Seven more British servicemen died in the Gulf today after two Royal Navy
Sea King helicopters collided over international waters.

The Sea King Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft went down at around
4.30am local time (1.30am GMT), a day after eight British commandos and four
US crew died when a US Marine CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed in
northern Kuwait.

Neither crash was the result of enemy action.

Group Captain Al Lockwood, a UK spokesman at the Allied command centre in
Qatar, confirmed all seven people on the two early warning helicopters had

He said: "I have just had a report that all those on the helicopters have
perished. Circumstances are such that accidents of this type can happen.
It's a great tragedy.

"Certainly there must have been extenuating circumstances and our
investigators are into the process of trying to establish the facts.

"Circumstances are still unclear. An investigation is under way and
obviously, it will take some time to ascertain what happened.

"But we are doing our utmost to establish very, very quickly what the
implications could be and what caused the accident itself."

He added: "Our thoughts are very much with their fellow comrades-in-arms,
their families and their friends."

Sea King helicopters are among the most recognisable aircraft in the world
and are usually associated with search and rescue operations.

These distinctive aircraft, with their long, bright-yellow fuselage, operate
from RAF bases such as Lossiemouth in Scotland and Boulmer in

Flying low over Britain's coastline at speeds of up to 140mph, they have
played a key role in locating missing people both on land and at sea.

But the helicopters that collided over the Gulf were Royal Navy-operated Mk7
Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Sea Kings that fulfil an entirely different

Following the Falklands conflict in 1982, military commanders decided that
AEW, or Airborne Surveillance and Area Control (ASAC) as it is now called,
was an essential part of air power at sea.

Sea Kings were chosen for the job and provide vital tactical control to the
Sea Harrier "Jump Jets" and other planes based on British aircraft carriers.,3604,920291,00.html

The Guardian, 24th March

Missing British TV reporter Terry Lloyd and two of his ITN news crew may
have been hit by "friendly fire" from coalition forces in Iraq, it was
reported today.

Cameraman Fred Nerac and local translator Hussein Othman were also missing
after the incident which happened as they were trying to get to the front at

Another cameraman, Daniel Demoustier, was injured as the crew drove towards
the key southern city in two vehicles, but was able to get to safety.

He told Barbara Jones of the Mail on Sunday, who eventually rescued him,
that they had been fired on by tanks from the coalition forces at Iman Anas,
while they were trying to drive away from a group of Iraqi soldiers.

"Immediately the allied tanks started heavy firing directly at us. Rounds
were coming straight at the Jeep, smashing the windows and puncturing holes
in the bodywork," he was quoted as saying.

"Then the whole car was on fire. We were enveloped in flames. It was

"I'm so angry that we were fired on by the allies. The Iraqis must have been
their real target but I'm sure they were surrendering - and anyway they were
all dead within minutes."

The US military said it had received unconfirmed reports that three
journalists had been killed or injured covering hostitilies in southern Iraq
on Saturday.

US army General Guy Shields, director of the coalition press information
centre in Kuwait, said he had reports that journalists had come under fire
in four separate incidents while operating independently of US or British

"We have had phone calls from journalists who have called the press desk
while under fire screaming for help," he told a news briefing. There was no
immediate indication of whether any of the incidents Gen Shields mentioned
involved the missing ITN crew.

The Ministry of Defence said tonight that it was still not clear what had
happened to Mr Lloyd and his colleagues.

ITN said it was increasingly concerned about the fate of the three men.

"Fourteen hours after the incident we still have no conclusive evidence as
to the whereabouts of the three missing men," an ITN statement said.

"However, such evidence as we do have has given us increased cause for

"As soon as we have conclusive information ITN will first inform the
families and then make a further announcement."

Defence sources said that the ITN team were believed to have passed through
a number of military checkpoints, where they were advised to turn back but
chose to carry on.

Mr Demoustier acknowledged that the crew had passed a US mortar position
where they saw US troops. "It was worrying but at the checkpoints all the
soldiers had been very casual. Our Jeep was marked clearly with the letters
TV all over it. We felt we would be safe," he told Ms Jones.

Mr Lloyd, 51, started work at ITN as a reporter for Central Television in
1983, based in the East Midlands, before moving on to general news coverage.

He was the first reporter inside the Iraqi town of Halabja after the Saddam
Hussein regime dropped a chemical bomb in 1988, killing 5,000 Kurds. He has
also reported from Kosovo, Bosnia and Yugoslavia, as well as covering major
sporting events.

by Tareq Ayyoub and Roufan Nahas
Jordan Times, 23rd March
RUWEISHED  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
emergency supervisor Douglas Oldman on Saturday said the agency is working
hard to accommodate more than 20,000 refugees expected to come from Iraq as
a result of the ongoing war on the Kingdom's eastern neighbour.

Oldman, who was inspecting two camps constructed in the past few days to
host thousands of Iraqi refugees in the desert town, said UNHCR is trying to
put up 400 tents in the coming days as part of their endeavour to ease the
plight of these refugees.

He said the organisation is coordinating with the Jordan Hashemite Charity
Organisation (JHCO)in their efforts in the camp, one of the two established
by local and international organisations.

"We are here to support the Jordanian government. We are hoping for the best
and preparing for the worst," Oldman told reporters following his visit to
the camp.

The UNHCR official attributed the absence of Iraqi refugees to what he
described as "the inability of Iraqis to reach the border," confirming that
no Iraqis are on the Iraqi side of the border.

UNHCR is one of the three groups which have recently launched efforts to
accommodate those fleeing from Iraq as a result of the ongoing US and
British military operations there.

A humanitarian official recently indicated it was too early to appeal for
international assistance to bolster the ongoing relief operations, saying
that the situation in Jordan remains "under control."

The official indicated relief organisations are preparing to deal with
250,000 Iraqis in Jordan, Syria, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The JHCO public relations director, Mahmoud Hmoush, said Jordan is prepared
to receive thousands of evacuees and refugees of all nationalities without

Meanwhile, Jordanian drivers coming from Iraq said the body of Ahmed Bazaa,
killed by a US missile assault targeting an Iraqi telecommunications centre
in the Ramadi governorate last week, was brought by ambulance to the border
two days after he was killed.

Drivers indicated that rescue workers were unable to free Bazaa's body from
the rubble following the attack, which also injured an Iraqi travelling with

The victim, a Jordanian who owned a transport company in Baghdad, is
expected to be buried in his hometown today. Despite warnings from different
sources, Jordanian and Iraqi drivers are still travelling through the desert
that links Amman and Baghdad, transporting journalists and travellers
desiring to move between the two capitals.

Journalists, who were allowed to visit the Karama border post Saturday said
they saw very few oil tankers and trucks coming from Iraq. This indicates
that drivers were unwilling to make the trip because of what they described
as "American missiles targeting vehicles leaving Baghdad for the border."

One driver, Ibrahim Anton, said he saw several vehicles destroyed by what he
claimed to be US missiles inside Iraqi territory. Anton, who was speaking to
The Jordan Times in Ruweished, said that a US fighter flying low launched a
missile near his car, forcing him to leave his vehicle and seek refuge under
a nearby bridge.

"I was travelling back to the border when I saw the plane nearby," Anton
said. "The plane came close to my car and I decided to stop and leave the
car to escape any possible attack. Fortunately the missile did no damage to
my vehicle."

Gulf News, 24th March

London, Reuters: Britain said a Royal Air Force plane that went missing in
the Gulf yesterday was likely shot down by a U.S. Patriot missile in the
first known "friendly fire" incident of the Iraq war.

"It appears the RAF aircraft was engaged by a Patriot missile near the
Kuwaiti border. The crew are missing. I can't confirm the type of aircraft
or the number of crew," said a spokesman for Britain's Defence Ministry.

A U.S. spokesman said a Patriot missile battery may have engaged the
aircraft, which was returning from a mission on day four of the Iraq war.

"This is the first friendly fire incident (of this war)," a British defence
spokeswoman said.
Patriots are designed to down enemy missiles and the mistaken firing on a
coalition plane is a blow for allied morale as it faces resistance from
Iraqi forces on the ground.

"This is a tragedy," Group Captain Al Lockwood told BBC television. "We are
doing everything we can do to find out the rationale behind the problem."

It was Britain's third air tragedy of the conflict and underscored the
perils of waging round the-clock strikes on Iraq, which has been pounded by
bombs and missiles.

Prime Minister Tony Blair - who has for the first time won majority backing
for war from the British public - has committed 45,000 troops to help the
United States oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussain in a major air and ground
war. Britain has since lost 14 troops in two helicopter crashes.

A U.S. Sea Knight helicopter crashed in Kuwait on Friday, killing eight
British soldiers and four U.S. Marines.

On Saturday, two Royal Navy helicopters from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal
- Britain's flagship in the war - collided in mid-air, killing six Britons
and one American.

"We have sadly witnessed the sacrifices our forces are ready to make for our
safety and security," Blair wrote in the People newspaper before the latest
air loss. "And we have to be ready for more sadness and setbacks ahead."

In the 1991 Gulf War to drive invading Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, nine
British troops were killed accidently by allies so-called "friendly fire".

The accident will figure at a war cabinet due to be held later yesterday,
when Blair will discuss the war's progress with his top ministers. Blair's
decision to go to war without UN blessing has divided Britain and confronted
him with by far the most serious and sustained opposition of his six-year

But with war now underway, the public is finally rallying behind U.S.
President George W. Bush and his top ally Blair, who has staked his
political career on the Iraq crisis. Two newspaper polls yesterday showed
the British public appeared to have softened its previous strong opposition
to the Iraq war.

An ICM poll for the News of the World showed 56 per cent believed Blair's
handling of the crisis had been "about right". The paper said support two
weeks ago was just 29 per cent.

In the Sunday Times, a YouGov poll showed 56 per cent now thought the United
States and Britain were right to take military action, with 36 per cent

In the previous YouGov poll before the war, the figures were almost exactly
the reverse. Nearly a quarter-of-a-million demonstrators marched for peace
in the streets of London on Saturday, but the numbers were well down on a
million-strong protest staged before the war began.,3604,920560,00.html

by Oliver Burkeman in Washington
The Guardian, 24th March

An American army sergeant was in custody yesterday after one soldier died
and at least 12 were injured in a grenade attack on a US command centre in

Tents belonging to the 101st Airborne Division at Camp Pennsylvania, central
Kuwait, were left burnt and bloodstained after two grenades were thrown at
around 1.20am local time yesterday.

Two Kuwaiti translators were detained, but about an hour after the incident
the missing sergeant, described as "armed and dangerous", was found hiding
in a bunker. Three of his grenades were missing, and some witnesses said
they had heard a third explosion.

The soldier was a Muslim, Sergeant Asan Akbar, an engineer from the 326th
Engineer Battalion, said George Heath, a spokesman at the division's home
base at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Sgt Akbar had been "having what some might call an attitude problem," Mr
Heath told reporters. He has not been charged.

According to reporters based at the camp, Sgt Akbar was angry about the war
in Iraq and might also have been the target of derogatory anti-Muslim
remarks at the camp.

He had been acting "insubordinate", Time magazine's correspondent at Camp
Pennsylvania reported, and "his superiors had decided not to bring him into

The motive was probably "resentment", a US army spokesman said. Other Muslim
soldiers at the camp have apparently complained about a hostile atmosphere.

The tents targeted were described as command tents housing officers of the
1st Brigade. Immediately after the second blast, soldiers could be heard
screaming: "Get out! Get out!" One woman yelled: "I'm hit!" and reports
described moments of disorder as bleeding soldiers tried to bandage
themselves before medics arrived. Soldiers initially feared the camp had
come under terrorist attack.

Footage showed Sgt Akbar being led away handcuffed. There were unconfirmed
reports that a second soldier had been detained by military police.

At least three of the 11 people evacuated to military hospitals by
helicopter were reported to be seriously injured. Colonel Richard Thomas,
the division surgeon, said most of the soldiers were expected to recover but
that several of the injuries were very serious.

The phenomenon of soldiers deliberately attacking those on the same side
became known as "fragging" during the Vietnam war, because fragmentation
grenades were often used. The attacks were often sparked by confrontations
involving racism.

Precise figures remain unknown, but according to some historians at least
600 American soldiers were killed in fragging attacks in the course of the
Vietnam conflict.

by Anne Penketh
The Independent, 25th March

Syria protested to the US and Britain last night after a US missile killed
five Syrian workers and injured 10 who were fleeing the war in a bus.

The vehicle, which was carrying 37 passengers, was struck on the Iraqi side
of the Syrian border on Sunday morning as it stopped for a rest break in

The Syrian Foreign Ministry summoned the US and British ambassadors to
Damascus "to protest this appalling aggression". The Syrians reserved the
right to claim damages and warned against targeting civilians.

One of the wounded, Marwan al-Shayesh, told Syrian television: "Passengers
were coming down from the bus when there was a huge explosion. We ran away
and looked back to the bus and saw more than 10 wounded inside."

The Pentagon admitted last night that the bus had been accidentally bombed
as it was crossing a bridge. General Stanley McChrystal, vice-director for
operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: "A coalition aircraft was
dropping ordnance on a bridge 100 miles from the Syrian border. After the
bombs were released, a bus came into the pilot's view but too late to recall
the weapons.

"The bombs struck the bridge and the bus," he said, adding that "unintended
casualties like this are regrettable."

A Syrian official said the strike violated the 1949 Geneva Convention that
protects civilians during times of war.


by Cahal Milmo
The Independent, 26th March

Two British soldiers were killed and two were injured yesterday in the
latest "friendly fire" incident to blight the campaign in Iraq. The
soldiers' tank was destroyed during fighting near Basra.

The two dead soldiers were named last night as Corporal Stephen John Allbutt
from Stoke on-Trent and Trooper David Jeffrey Clarke from Staffordshire.

The incident took place while British armour and infantry were battling
against militiamen and irregular forces leading a guerrilla-style campaign
in and around Iraq's second city. The four-man Challenger II tank was fired
on by another British tank during the battle in the darkness.

The families of the dead men, from the Queen's Royal Lancers Regiment, have
been told of the deaths. An inquiry is under way and will centre on why the
tank's new identification technology failed to prevent the attack.

Colonel Chris Vernon, British Army Field headquarters spokesman, said last
night: "Despite careful planning, excellent training, top-class night vision
equipment and sophisticated combat ID measures, these events happen in the
fog of war and the heat of battle."

The risk of Allied forces inflicting casualties on their own side was
further underlined by reports an US F-16 jet had fired on an Allied Patriot
missile battery inside Iraq which had locked on to the aircraft.

Therewere no casualties in the incident on Monday, which led to the fighter
firing an anti radiation missile to destroy the Patriot's radar.

New York Times, 26th March

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- A second U.S. serviceman has died from wounds he
suffered in a grenade attack on soldiers in Kuwait, an attack an Army
sergeant is suspected of carrying out.

Air Force Maj. Gregory Stone, 40, based in Boise, was pronounced dead early
Tuesday at an Army field hospital in Kuwait, the Idaho Air National Guard
said. Capt. Christopher Scott Seifert, 27, of Easton, Pa., also was killed
in Saturday's attack, and 14 other soldiers were injured.

Sgt. Asan Akbar is in custody. He was shipped to a military jail in Germany
on Tuesday after a judge found probable cause to try him for the assault.
The probable cause ruling keeps Akbar confined as military investigators
continue to investigate.

Akbar, an American Muslim who told family members he was wary of going to
war in Iraq, has not been charged.

The Army said Akbar was taken from Camp Doha, Kuwait, to the Mannheim
Confinement Facility, where he will await a pretrial investigation. It was
not clear where that would take place.

Akbar was taken into custody Sunday, shortly after explosions rocked several
tents at Camp Pennsylvania, the Kuwaiti headquarters of the 101st Airborne
Division's 1st Brigade.

``It appears that the explosions were the result of three grenades that were
thrown or rolled through the front door of each of these three tents,'' said
a statement from Fort Campbell, Ky., home of the 101st.

Army investigators will complete a report and send it to Akbar's superiors,
said Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation
Division in Virginia.

Before the latest death, military experts said Akbar could face one charge
of intentional murder and additional charges of attempted murder for the
wounded soldiers.

Eugene Fidell, a Washington lawyer and founder of the National Institute of
Military Justice, said the crime could warrant the death penalty, which is
rare in the military.

There are six people on the military's death row, but there have been no
military executions since 1961.

Lt. Col. Tim Marsano, spokesman for the Idaho Air National Guard, said
Stone, a 20-year active and reserve veteran of the Air Force, was the Air
Liaison Officer with the Army's 101st Airborne Division at Camp

Stone graduated from Benson High School in Portland, Ore., and Oregon State
University. He enlisted in 1983, went through the ROTC program at Oregon
State and was commissioned in 1988.

Stone had two sons, ages 11 and 7, who live in Boise.

``He was wonderful, the best son anybody could ask for,'' said his
stepmother, Sally Stone of Riggins, Idaho. Stone's mother, Betty Lenzi of
Ontario, Ore., said she was too upset to talk.

The slain man's father, Richard Stone of Riggins, Idaho, told television
station KIVI that his last contact with his son was through an e-mail
Saturday. In it, Stone said things were going well and that he was a little
nervous but ready for the mission.

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