Saddam ‘shields’ seek UK inquiry

A group of Britons taken hostage by Iraqi troops and used as “human shields” by Saddam Hussein before the first Gulf war have called for a public enquiry into charges the UK government knowingly put their lives at stake.

Iraqi troops seized 367passengers when their plane landed
Iraqi troops seized 367passengers when their plane landed

Their demand came on Monday after a new book claimed that the flight they were on was being used to transport undercover agents into Kuwait before the first Gulf war.

Author Stephen Davis says he has documentary evidence indicating that British Airways flight 149 was used to transport the agents on a secret mission to gather intelligence on the movements of Iraqi troops.

Around 367 passengers and crew were seized by Iraqi troops when the aircraft landed in Kuwait hours after the invasion of the country on August 2, 1990.

According to passengers and crew who were on board, a group of nine men joined the flight unannounced as it was delayed at London Heathrow Airport, and later disappeared after it landed in Kuwait.

Davis has detailed his findings in a forthcoming book and BBC documentary ‘The Secret of Flight 149’.

“Truth suppressed”

He said: “There is no doubt that valuable intelligence which saved lives was gained, but these people were put through a terrible time and governments have lied about it ever since.


“I think it is time it stopped. At every stage, there has been a very determined effort for the truth about this to be suppressed.”


The Britons held as “human shields” were detained at sites  thought likely to be targeted by coalition bombing. They were all  released after up to four-and-a-half months in captivity.


A British foreign office spokesperson said: “This was discussed in parliament at the time in quite some detail and we’ve got nothing to add to what was said then.”


Norman Baker, a member of parliament, wrote to Tony Blair, the British prime minister, on Monday asking him to meet crew and passengers to hear their request for an  inquiry.


He said it was clear that statements made in parliament by former prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major were “misleading to say the least”, and called for the release of a classified military police report on the “human shields”.


Traumatic experience


Passenger John Chappell, said: “I was a 14-year-old  schoolboy when this took place and it was apparent to me that Iraq was very likely to invade Kuwait and it wasn’t a safe place to land.


“I am disgusted that for 16 years my government has denied all of this. It is not on for them to treat me like this and then lie about it and that is why I want an apology.”


His sister Jennifer, 29, said she saw Iraqi tanks driving over cars full of people trying to flee.


“This experience took away my innocence. My childhood ended and I have had 16 years of psychological problems as a result,” she said.


David Fort, 70, said: “I want an apology and I want compensation. Me and my partner both lost our jobs because of this and we never worked again.”


In 2003 a French court ordered British Airways to pay 1.67 million euros to former French hostages from the flight, saying the airline had “seriously failed in its obligations” to the passengers by landing the plane.

Source: AFP

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