IN THE KUWAITI DESERT March 20 —
Iraq launched at least three missiles into Kuwait Thursday in
retaliation for a U.S. pre-dawn attack on the Iraqi capital of
Baghdad. All were intercepted or thudded harmlessly into the sand,
Fear the missiles could contain chemical or biological weapons
prompted soldiers to pull on gas masks and protective suits. No such
weapons were detected, officials said.
Initial details were extremely sketchy. Reporters accompanying
U.S. troops are subject to heavy security. There also was confusion
over the number of attacks and what kind of missiles were fired.
By mid-afternoon, Kuwait time, at least three attacks were
recorded. There were no immediate reports of casualties or
Lt. Col. Ronnie McCourt, a British spokesman at Camp As Sayliyah,
said Iraq fired three missiles into northern Kuwait, one of them an
Iraq is barred from possessing Scud missiles with ranges greater
than 93 miles. U.N. inspectors sent after the 1991 Gulf War
discovered Iraq had 819 Scuds exceeding that limit. Iraq declared
all but two were used or destroyed.
But chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, who headed the latest
effort to find Iraq's banned weapons, told the Security Council this
month it was "questionable" whether the Iraqis really had destroyed
all of its Scuds and about 50 Scud warheads were unaccounted
One missile landed near A Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry
Regiment, whose soldiers were eating lunch.
"That is not supposed to be happening," said Capt. Chris Carter,
the company commander.
Within minutes a message came across the radio: a tactical
ballistic missile had hit the desert. Minutes later, all troops were
ordered to put on gas masks and biochemical protective suits.
The soldiers moved swiftly and calmly first putting on masks,
then the heavy, charcoal-insulated suits according to orders drilled
into them for months.
Then they waited in the desert heat.
"All clear," the radio crackled about 20 minutes later.
"Damn, I had just put a pinch of chew in when the order came
down," said Spc. Dean Bryant, lamenting the loss of valuable chewing
At Camp New Jersey one of at least two encampments in the Kuwaiti
desert where soldiers jumped into protective gear officers said the
missile may have been an Al Samoud 2, which is also banned under the
weapons agreement signed by Iraq after the Gulf war.
Blix ordered the Al Samoud 2 missiles destroyed after the Iraqis
reported that, in test flights, it had flown slightly farther than
the 93-mile limit. That effort started March 1, and Blix reported
that about 70 of the missiles had been destroyed, leaving
approximately 30 in the Iraqi arsenal.
Kuwaiti army commanders said a missile was launched at Kuwait
City at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
The report came minutes after air raid sirens sounded in the
capital, followed by an all-clear signal.
On Kuwaiti television, military spokesman Col. Youssef al-Mullah
said the wailing sirens were prompted by a Scud missile being fired
from Iraq. It was shot down by three Patriot missiles, he said.
A second missile was "dealt with," he said.
Lawyer Hassan al-Matrouk went to a supermarket to buy food after
the sirens blared twice in Kuwait City.
"The first time, we went into the safe room we had prepared at
home. My wife and children were afraid," he said. "The second time,
they went into the room and I stayed in the living room watching
The 48-year-old attorney said he believes Iraqi president Saddam
Hussein "will use chemical weapons against us. And that will be a
stupid decision because it will lead to attacking Baghdad with
The government said Kuwait University and public schools will be
closed for a week beginning Saturday.
|A U.S. Marine closes his eyes as
he waits in a full nuclear biological and chemical protection
suit in a bunker at a desert base in Kuwait after a warning of
a second scud missile attack from Iraq Thursday March 20,
2003. Iraq fired missiles at Kuwait, prompting U.S. troops to
don chemical protective suits and setting emergency air raid
sirens blaring in Kuwait City. (AP Photo/MoD
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