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,"
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
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.
|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
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