Kuwaitis celebrate--and start to count their losses Many tell stories of torture, killings WAR IN THE GULF

February 28, 1991|By Dan Fesperman | Dan Fesperman,Sun Staff Correspondent

KUWAIT CITY -- From noon to dusk yesterday, it sometimes seemed that the whole of this city was celebrating. Men on corners fired machine guns into the sky. Families rushed to carry food to arriving allied soldiers. Flag-waving, horn-honking carloads of revelers weaved between the smashed hulks of spent Iraqi tanks.

But amid these scenes of joy, other Kuwaitis began totaling the numbers of dead, maimed and missing, while wondering how deep the nation's pain will be once the euphoria of reclaimed freedom wears off.

Stories of loss and suffering came from almost anyone one spoke to. Esmah al Rasheedi said her husband's fingernails were plucked out and his body shocked with electrodes, because he operated a printing press.

Entessar Hassen joined in, saying, "If any man went outside, the Iraqis would ask him, 'Why do you dress this way? Why do you do this or that? Where are you going?'

"If they like you, fine. If they don't, they kill you. I don't want to kill Mr. Saddam. I want the children to throw their shoes at him. Because now they have no fathers, no uncles."

Abdullah al Khateeb, standing 20 feet away, then offered a short tour through a series of local tragedies.

His first stop was a few blocks away, in a small vacant lot near his home in the suburb of Andalus. Two nights ago, he said, while many Iraqi soldiers withdrew from the city, he saw several of them push two teen-age boys to their knees in the middle of this square at midnight.

The soldiers then shot the boys in the head with pistols, he said.

Mr. Khateeb strolled to the center of the square and pointed to the sand.

A bloodstained white kaffiyeh, the head garment worn by Arab men, lay in a pile.

A few feet away, the sand was covered with a large brown splotch.

Mr. Khateeb then drove to the fringe of his neighborhood and led a tour through the local police station, which he said the Iraqis had turned into a jail for hundreds of Kuwaitis.

The building was now deserted and reeked of human waste and rotting food.

Mr. Khateeb and several other people interviewed said they had attempted to visit relatives -- all of them men -- who had been taken to the building by Iraqi soldiers, only to be told to leave. Some were told in recent days that the men had been taken to Baghdad, several people said.

Walid Mansour said the roundup of men during the past several days had included a stake-out of the city's mosques on Friday, the Islamic holy day.

In one 20-by-25-foot room at the makeshift prison, Mr. Khateeb said, the Iraqis had imprisoned more than a hundred men at a time. A pair of handcuffs hung from the bars of the entrance door.

In other rooms, he said, men were hooked to electrical wires and shocked, or tortured in other ways.

Dr. Bader Idan, an oral and facial surgeon, said he treated about 10 patients during the Iraqi occupation for punctured cheeks and crushed facial bones. Each told the doctor he had been tortured.

He also confirmed earlier stories that baby incubators had been taken from a local maternity hospital by Iraqi soldiers, then sent -- to Baghdad.

Not everyone avoided such treatment by simply hiding at home. Hammad al Muteri, 25, was one of several resistance fighters who joined Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian soldiers in manning corner checkpoints yesterday while other soldiers continued rooting out Iraqis from hiding.

Mr. Muteri said he used a knife, a pistol and stealth to kill 20 Iraqi soldiers during the past six months.

The city showed plenty of signs of the Iraqi occupation. On the beaches leading down to the turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf, the Iraqis had dug bunkers and sandbagged trenches. A two-story parking deck facing the gulf was mounted with an anti-aircraft gun.

Mr. Khateeb, after offering his tour of the alleged sites of killing and torture, led a review of the downtown damage.

Several high-rise hotels were burned out. And row after row of one-story shopping strips had been looted, gutted and burned.

"They steal anything in the ministries and the companies to take back to their country," Mr. Mansour said. "They stole my car. And my second car, they broke the glass and stole the extra tire."

The Iraqis also burned the interior of the Parliament building and greatly damaged the once-magnificent palace of the emir, which sits by the gulf. The four-story structure no longer had a ceiling, and the floor was a pile of broken concrete and twisted steel beams.

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