Mass torture, executions reported in Kuwait City WAR IN THE GULF

February 24, 1991|By Tim Weiner and Juan Tamayo | Tim Weiner and Juan Tamayo,Knight-Ridder News Service

Iraqi soldiers have intensified a campaign of terror in Kuwait City, executing hundreds of citizens and arresting thousands, according to U.S. intelligence reports and Kuwaiti resistance groups.

The reports painted a grim picture of murder, kidnapping and torture carried out under skies blackened by oil fires. They depicted Iraqi forces randomly seizing people in the street, killing some and taking others to strategic locations to be used as human shields.

"They are carrying out a campaign of terror within Kuwait, principally Kuwait City," said Marine Brig. Gen. Richard I. Neal, a U.S. military spokesman in Riyadh. He described the Iraqis' conduct as "terrorism at its finest hour."

Many of the victims were said to be people previously tortured by Iraqiforces. "They're sort of destroying the evidence, for lack of a better term," General Neal said. "This is terrorism at its finest hour."

The Iraqis were "grabbing Kuwaitis along the streets and byways of Kuwait City and executing them," he said.

A Kuwaiti security official in exile in Dhahran said about 200 corpses of people detained by the Iraqis had been dumped near their homes or in empty lots in Kuwait City since Wednesday. The bodies showed signs of torture and mutilation, the official said.

"They are now desperate," Hassan al-Sanad, a Kuwait information ministry official, said in Dhahran. "They are committing atrocities to hide their past crimes."

Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry officials in Riyadh said yesterday that 10,000 were being held in jails and prison camps by Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait.

The accounts heightened a sense of urgency on the battlefront as time ticked past the Iraqi withdrawal deadline set by President Bush.

The reports were not confirmed by independent eyewitnesses. However, General Neal said U.S. electronic-eavesdropping equipment had substantiated Kuwaiti resistance groups' accounts of a stepped-up, widespread and "systematic campaign of executions."

"We knew that they were executing people on a routine basis, and they weren't people that were connected with the resistance or anything of that nature," he said.

The Kuwaiti security official in Dhahran said many prisoners in Kuwait City were being held at the Iraqi embassy, the central police headquarters, neighborhood police stations and a juvenile prison.

Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, reported last month that at least 1,000 Kuwaiti prisoners were killed between the Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait and the beginning of the war. Kuwaiti Col. Abdullah Kandari, a military spokesman in Riyadh, said at least 200 more were executed in the first four weeks of the war.

Kuwaitis fleeing their occupied country have told of torture, hangings, shootings, beheadings and random killings carried out by Iraqi

forces. Kuwaiti exiles in Saudi Arabia and resistance groups in Washington have fleshed out those accounts with facsimile reports from citizens inside Kuwait. The Kuwaitis transmit reports by using small satellite phones, setting up and dismantling them quickly to avoid detection.

Copies of three transmissions from inside Kuwait made available yesterday by the Washington-based Citizens for a Free Kuwait say Iraqi intelligence officers "have intensified their acts of kidnapping" in the past few days, arresting Kuwaiti males between the ages of 15 and 40.

"They are taking innocent people from the streets of the city . . . to use them as human shields," said a communique dated Feb. 21. "This is normal daily routine."

The report also described eyewitness accounts of prisoners killed with axes and drills and tortured with electric shocks.

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