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Monday, Feb. 25, 1991
Baghdad Radio: Saddam orders troops out of Kuwait
By DENHOLM BARNETSON, United Press International
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein Monday ordered his troops to withdraw from Kuwait, Baghdad Radio said, as allied forces sliced through occupied territory in what one U.S. general said was a ''tremendous success'' even in their first brushes with the elite Republican Guard.
Earlier Monday, Iraq launched a Scud missile, killing 12 Americans in Saudi Arabia.
Iraq said the decision to pull out from Kuwait was made by on the basis of the Soviet-brokered peace plan to end the gulf war and United Nations Resolution 660 that calls for an unconditional withdrawal.
In Washington, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the United States had not been contacted about any Iraqi withdrawal.
''There is nothing to respond to,'' Fitzwater said. ''The war goes on.''
Fitzwater said later that Iraqi soldiers should give up their arms. ''We will not attack unarmed soldiers retreating,'' he said.
The presidential spokesman added another condition to end the gulf war -- that Saddam personally announce the withdrawal and accept all U.N. resolutions.
The report on Baghdad Radio said: ''Orders have been issued to our armed forces to withdraw in an organized manner to the positions they held prior to 1 August 1990. This is regarded as a practical compliance with Resolution 660. The spokesman emphasized that our armed forces, which have proven their ability to fight and stand fast, will confront any attempt to harm it while it is carrying out the withdrawal order.''
As Kuwaitis marked the 30th anniversary of independence from Britain, an allied military leader indicated that fighting to liberate Kuwait City had begun and that coalition forces were finally meeting slightly stronger resistance.
Allied casualties remained light on the battlefield and there was no word on enemy dead and wounded. Coalition officials reported taking more than 20,000 Iraqi prisoners of war. Military police were rushed to front to take care of them so as not to saddle combat troops ''with babysitting POWs.''
But while the battlefront was going very well for the allied troops, Iraq showed it still was dangerous, launching a Scud missile attack at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The debris hit a building housing American military personnel.
U.S. military officials said 12 servicemen were killed in the attack, 25 injured and 40 others still unaccounted for.
The Scud was intercepted in the air by a Patriot missile but debris fell, causing the destruction of the housing facility. A worker in a local hospital said at least 50 were injured.
The attack was by far the worst launched by Iraq since the war began. And it came in stark contrast to the allied success on the battlefront.
About 80 Republican Guard tanks, which had spent the first five weeks of the war holed up in southeastern Iraq, began moving south toward advancing coalition forces, according to pilots returning from combat missions.
''They're finally flushing,'' said Col. Steve Turner, 41, of Portsmouth, Va., who commands a squadron of fighter-bombers at the largest U.S. air base in Saudi Arabia. ''They've got to do something -- either that, or get killed in their holes. This is the group we've been beating on for the last couple of weeks, and they finally started moving.''
Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Richard I. Neal of the Central Command said in Riyadh that allied units have encountered ''some'' Republican Guard forces, the group considered Saddam's best troops. Where they have been engaged, he said, ''They're being beaten.''
A senior Pentagon official, however, said the allied forces have not faced the bulk of the Republican Guard and probably would not do so for at least another day.
Neal said U.S. combat casualties included four killed and 21 wounded. Lt. Gen. Khalid bin Sultan, commander of the Joint Arab Forces in the alliance, said five Arab troops had been killed and 20 had been wounded. Britain reported no casualties and there were no details of casualties to forces of other nations in the coalition.
Neal said 270 Iraqi tanks have been destroyed since allied forces charged into Iraq and occupied Kuwait Sunday morning, including 35 of the top-line Iraqi tank, the Soviet T-72. Counting the number of tanks allies believe were wiped before the ground campaign, the number of disabled tanks could be half Saddam's force.
''We are continuing to attack and continue to achieve tremendous success against Iraqi forces,'' Neal said, while Iraq's resistance has been ''light to moderate.''
According to allied military officials on the battlefield, U.S. Marines dug in just west of Kuwait City. One senior military source said some troops had entered the capital city late Sunday, but did not say how many.
Khalid indicated that fighting to retake the capital had started. Asked if there was combat in Kuwait City, he hesitated, smiled and said, ''There is combat going on everywhere in the theater of operations.'' Asked how soon the city would be liberated, he replied, ''We will be there soon, very soon.''
While military authorities would not specify troop movements, reports from the front said the VIIth Corps, composed of at least three divisions, heavy with tanks and accompanied by British armored units, moved north into Iraq to cut off the Republican Guards along the Kuwait-Iraq border.
To their west, French armored units drove north, apparently to prevent any support from Baghdad. The 101st Airborne Division flew deep into Iraq to establish a huge helicopter refueling position, presumably to refuel helicopters that would be used to attack Republican Guard tanks.
In Kuwait, 17,000 Marines sat offshore waiting for a possible amphibious landing. Marine divisions were heading toward Kuwait City, one from the southwest and another from the south up the coast. Saudi and other gulf troops advanced ahead of the 2nd Marines.
''Terrorism continues as the only Iraqi success to report to date,'' Neal said. ''Reports of atrocities of the worst sort (against civilians in Kuwait) are continuing to come in.'' But he said the allies did not plan to accelerate their move to liberate Kuwait, saying that could cause unnecessary casualties.
He said at least 517 Kuwaiti oil wells had now been set ablaze by Iraq forces, and many other ''facilities'' in Kuwait City itself ''are being systematically destroyed.''
Khalid said Iraqi forces in Kuwait City have continued to execute, rape and mutilate Kuwaiti citizens and have even forced young conscripts to kill Kuwaitis their own ages. He provided no further details.
The Arab commander warned that those responsible for such atrocities would face justice. Asked if that meant the allied planned to fight until they captured Saddam, he said, ''No, sir, Saddam Hussein -- his own people, his own nation can deal with him.''
Four U.S. warplanes were downed, and three of the five pilots have been rescued, Neal said.
At least two more Iraqi airplanes took off and made it safely to Iran, bringing the number to about 150 planes grounded there.
Allied air strikes in support of the ground fighting included 1,300 combat sorties in the Kuwait area in the previous 24 hours, among more than 3,000 missions for the period overall.
American women helicopter pilots flew into combat areas, flying supplies and soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division to a position more than 50 miles inside Iraq. Officials cited in a pool report said the operation encountered only minimal fire. There are 22 women helicopter pilots in the division but it was unknown how many took part in supporting the operation with CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
Iraq launched two Chinese-made Silkworm missiles at the British warship HMS Gloucester in the northern Persian Gulf, British military officials said.
One Silkworm fell harmlessly into the water and the second was destroyed by one of two Sea Dart missiles fired by the Gloucester, exploding 30 seconds before it would have hit the vessel. U.S. Navy attack jets later destroyed the launch site.
French news reports said French Foreign Legion units penetrated as far as 100 miles inside southern Iraq in the allied bid to encircle Iraqi troops and sever vital communications and supply lines between Baghdad and Kuwait. They also had captured 3,000 enemy prisoners, the reports said.
Iraq contended it had foiled the allied land assault in eight hours of fighting. ''With God's help, we have managed to expel the enemy from all the positions he took during the first hours of the attack,'' Baghdad Radio said, quoting a military spokesman. ''The enemy troops fled, leaving behind their tanks.''
The Iraqi News Agency quoted a military spokesman as saying that Iraqi ''Al Hussein'' missiles -- Scuds -- hit the Saudi capital Riyadh and ''King Fahd's Military Base,'' as well as the Dimona plant in Israel's Negev desert.
President Bush was briefed by his top military men and warned about declaring victory too soon.
''We must guard against euphoria,'' he said, ''There are battles yet to come and casualties to be borne, but make no mistake: Kuwait will soon be free and the men and women in uniform will return home to the thanks and respect of a grateful nation.''
Air assaults continued, naval forces gave gunfire support, and aircraft carriers and mine sweepers were brought into action.
In the Persian Gulf, helicopters made reconnaissance runs on the beach and reported Iraqi troops staying put, apparently as a hedge against a landing, rather than moving out to reach approaching Marine forces on land.
Besides the United States, joining the assault were forces from Great Britain, France, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Syria. U.S. officials refused to say how many of the more than 700,000 allied troops took part in the drive.
Neal said the Iraqi military had seen ''only a small portion of our total combat power. There is much more to come.''
Saddam Hussein finally activated his crack Republican Guard Monday, sending tanks rumbling from their lair in southeastern Iraq to meet allied forces driving deep into enemy territory, and U.S. forces closed in on Kuwait City on the second day the massive air-sea-ground campaign.
As Kuwaitis marked the 30th anniversary of independence from Britain, the commander of the Arab allied forces indicated that fighting to liberate the Kuwaiti capital had begun and that coalition forces were engaging better trained Iraqi troops.
Allied casualties remained light and there was no word on enemy dead and wounded, although the coalition reported taking about 20,000 Iraqi prisoners of war, and a Saudi commander asserted that many enemy soldiers ''will not be fighting another day.''
Copyright 2007 by United Press International.