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March 28, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Iraq Kurds Prepare War Refugee Camps
Iraqi Kurds Prepare Camps to Handle Up to 500,000 People Fleeing to Protected Autonomous Region

The Associated Press


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IRBIL, Iraq March 28

Iraqi Kurds are preparing camps to hold as many as 500,000 people fleeing Saddam Hussein's territory, but face severe shortages of tents and other equipment, officials said Friday.

The plans are part of Kurdish efforts to mobilize limited resources if the fighting intensifies in northern Iraq, where Iraqis and U.S.-allied Kurds have yet to engage in serious clashes.

Airstrikes have targeted Iraqi positions near the borders of the Kurds' autonomous enclave, which is protected by Western powers. U.S. ground forces have started to assemble for a possible offensive south to the strategic city of Mosul and the major oil region around Kirkuk both claimed by Kurds as part of their future territory.

The interior minister of the Kurdish administration, Karim Sinjari, said crews were installing electricity, roads and sanitation at sites for as many as a half- million refugees. Iraqi authorities apparently closed the border with the Kurdish region shortly before the war began.

"If the border opens, we expect people could start coming over," said Sinjari.

But he said Kurds are struggling with a severe shortage of tents and other necessary items such as generators and fuel. He claimed many supplies were stockpiled by aid agencies and governments in neighboring countries and appealed for relief convoys to begin before possible battles in the area.

"We could be approaching an emergency situation," he said.

Separate camps will be constructed to handle 6,000 possible POWs and Iraqi Army defectors, he said. The number of defectors currently in Kurdish hands has not been announced, but is believed to number several hundred.

Sinjari also said Kurds have no supplies of gas masks and will begin teaching their people how to protect against chemical or biological attacks using common household items.


photo credit and caption:
Iraqi Kurds drive towards previously captured Iraqi goverment army positions in Chamchamal, northern Iraq Thursday March 27, 2003. The Kurds took over the hills around the bordertown of Chamchamal after several US-led bombardments had caused the Saddam Hussein's soldiers to retreat. (AP Photo/Newsha Tavakolian)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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