Baker sees an Iraqi role in postwar gulf security Baghdad civilians feel less menaced by allied bombing War in the Gulf

February 07, 1991|By Knight-Ridder News Service

RUWEISHED,JORDAN — RUWEISHED, Jordan -- Despite continued allied bombing, residents of Baghdad are no longer seeking protection in underground bomb shelters -- in part because of growing confidence that allied pilots are aiming only at military installations and other strategic sites, travelers said yesterday.

Residents of Baghdad arriving at this border checkpoint in Jordan said most civilians in the Iraqi capital now believed allied bombers were trying to avoid civilian targets. Several recounted, however, gruesome incidents of missed bombing runs that devastated nearby housing.

"They are bombing the chemical and military places and only a few houses," Georgette Karakyliakos, a Greek national who has lived in Baghdad for 30 years, said in explaining why Iraqis were no longer heading into shelters.

Mustafa Damini, a Palestinian, said, "Sometimes they hit behind or next to [their target]. Every day at night they have bombs from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Every two hours they come to throw bombs."

Mrs. Karakyliakos' son, George, 24, noted that allied pilots "don't always shoot correct a lot of times."

He recalled one misplaced bomb 10 days ago that leveled a house and killed six members of a family, including a 3-month-old girl. The baby's mother and father, who had left the child to shop for bread, returned in shock and were led off to an aunt's home.

Allied bombardiers were apparently trying to hit the control tower of a nearby military airport. "But they missed," Mr. Karakyliakos said dryly. "After 15 minutes, they made it correct."

The comments from about a dozen people seemed to support the Pentagon's claim that there was no widespread devastation in Baghdad and that fighter-bombers were for the most part hitting strictly strategic targets.

The travelers described a city that has largely recovered from the initial shock of the allied air war.

Now Iraqis pass the long dark hours of allied bombardment in their homes. Some bake bread or huddle around wood stoves. Others drink liquor, listen to the radio, even huddle around generator-powered television sets watching Persian-language programs beamed from Iran.

After eight years of war with Iran in the 1980s, Iraqis have learned to live in rough conditions, George Karakyliakos and other travelers said. Electricity may be provided only two or three hours a day, and fresh water comes from taps only sporadically. But, they said, life has slowly taken on a semblance of normality.

Adults not already called to arms have gone back to work. Grocers still have supplies on their shelves and open their shops for the few hours a day when the power is on.

The travelers from Baghdad said basic foodstuffs were still available in exchange for ration coupons introduced by the government in the fall. Palestinian businessman Awni Kenaan, 49, said he and his family quit the bomb shelters after the first week of allied attack. Until he left early yesterday, he had passed the nights "drinking and listening to the news, all the Arabic news."

A native of the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Nablus, he had lived in Kuwait for three decades.

"I am hoping that Iraq will be the winner," said Mr. Kenaan. "We Muslims believe that when God wants you to die, you will die. If the armies start a desert war, Iraq will win."

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