Iraq hostages in UK trojan horse claim

A group of air passengers held hostage as 'human shields' by Saddam Hussein after their flight landed in Kuwait before the first Gulf war are reportedly set to demand a public inquiry into why the British government allowed their plane to land there.

    Thatcher was UK prime minister during the hostage drama

    Britain's Sunday Times newspaper reported on Sunday that renewed calls for an inquiry will be made when a new documentary airs claims that Margaret Thatcher, the prime minister at the time, and her government allowed the plane to land in 1990 despite the fact Iraqi troops had already crossed into Kuwait.

    Some of the more than 350 passengers on board flight BA 149 have alleged that the plane was used as a "trojan horse" to transport British undercover agents, made up of former special forces soldiers or former intelligence officers, into Kuwait.

    Thatcher’s successor, John Major, has in the past refuted such allegations and denied any military personnel were on board or that any lives were knowingly put at risk.

    Vital intelligence

    The undercover agents' lack of formal link with the government would allow Britain to distance itself from their activities, the newspaper said.

    The documentary will also claim that the undercover agents on the flight somehow evaded the capture of Iraqi troops, and provided Britain with valuable intelligence that eventually helped defeat Iraq in the first Gulf War.

    "We have a long-standing policy of not discussing intelligence matters"

    UK foreign office

    Some of the passengers will meet with Norman Baker, a member of parliament for the smaller opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, on Monday in London to call for an independent public inquiry.

    A spokesman for the British foreign office told the Sunday Times: "The government's position has already been outlined to parliament and we have a long-standing policy of not discussing intelligence matters."

    Tough ordeal

    BA flight 149 was travelling between London and Kuala Lumpur and had stopped to refuel in Kuwait City only hours after the Iraqi invasion had begun in August 1990.

    Iraqi forces were bombing the runway at the time and all the passengers were taken prisoner.

    They were taken to Baghdad and were used as human shields at possible bomb targets in Iraq, including power stations, oil refineries and military sites. Many fell sick with dysentery and cholera.

    After several months they were released in phases, with the last, most of them British and US nationals, freed in December 1990 before the start of the coalition ground war in Kuwait.

    In July 2003 British Airways was ordered by a court in France to pay $1.9 million to seven of the hostages.

    SOURCE: AFP


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