Americans held after straying into Iraq
Saturday 18 March 1995
According a UN spokesman in Kuwait, in an account later confirmed by the State Department here, the two men crossed through United Nations- manned border posts en route to the UN's Kuwait-Iraq Observer Mission (Unikom) in the southern Iraqi town of Umm Qasr, where they arrived at around 7.45pm on 13 March.
But they were refused entry because they had no authorisation and were told to return to Kuwait. On the way back they were apparently arrested by Iraqi police and taken to an unknown destination. The US Embassy in Kuwait has enlisted the aid of both the UN and the Polish government, which has normal relations with Iraq, to secure their release.
The original low-key handling of the affair suggests that Washington had been hoping to settle it quietly. But as the days dragged by without progress, that approach perforce changed. President Clinton has now been briefed, and White House spokesman Mike McCurry told reporters Washington was doing everything possible to secure the men's release.
Although the identity of the two men has not been made public, they are known to be US civilians under contract to Unikom. But it was not clear how they managed to stray through the border checkpoints - apparently the first to do so since 1994 when Kuwait completed work on a trench and 13ft rampart along the previously unmarked frontier.
Such unwitting mistakes can have unpleasant consequences, with several Westerners who strayed into Iraq receiving jail terms of up to eight years for espionage (although they have generally been freed after a year or so). And Baghdad has less reason than ever at this particular moment to be kindly disposed towards the US.
The incident comes just a fortnight after a failed coup against Saddam Hussein, apparently led by the head of the Iraqi military intelligence service during the Gulf war, which ended with Saddam's forces being driven from Kuwait by a US-led coalition. In its first acknowledgement of the coup, the Baghdad authorities declared yesterday the government "could withstand any US-backed bid" to topple it.
Further ground for resentment came last week when Washington succeeded in persuading a clear majority of the UN Security Council to maintain the 1991 oil embargo against Iraq - overcoming strenuous opposition from France and Russia and denying Saddam access to a vital source of export earnings.
- 1 Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
- 2 Miley Cyrus' homeless MTV VMAs date, Jesse Helt, is wanted by the police
- 3 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
- 4 Homer Simpson has taken the ALS ice bucket challenge because of course he has
- 5 Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Notting Hill Carnival: Woman shares selfie after being ‘punched in face for telling man to stop groping her’
Gun instructor accidentally shot dead by nine-year-old girl with Uzi gun
Miley Cyrus' homeless MTV VMAs date, Jesse Helt, is wanted by the police
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
The 13 obscure UK laws you didn’t know you were breaking
Exclusive: We share blame for creating 'jihad generation', says Muslim strategist
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Jeremy Clarkson is a cultural tumour and needs to be removed, says comedian Frankie Boyle
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
- < Previous
- Next >
Flexible for the right candidate: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: I have a fa...
£500 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Calypso Developer Calypso, J2SE, XML, ...
£35000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading financia...
£250 - £350 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is cur...