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EDITORS: The following items are based on pool dispatches

February 21, 1991

EDITORS: The following items are based on pool dispatches that were subject to U.S. military censorship.


SOUTHWESTERN SAUDI ARABIA (AP) _ Several outbreaks of salmonella poisoning and botulism have hit U.S. troops since the Persian Gulf crisis began, an Air Force hospital commander said.

One U.S. Air Force transportable hospital serving a tactical fighter wing reported treating 600 patients for botulism last month and is now treating soldiers suffering from salmonella poisoning.

Both types of food poisoning can be fatal, but no deaths from the diseases have occurred so far among U.S. troops, Col. Alvin Cotlar, commander of the 833rd Air Transportable Hospital, said Wednesday.

Cotlar blamed tainted food from local catering services. The botulism, for example, was traced to contaminated yeast, he said.

″Everybody has had salmonella outbreaks because no matter how careful you are, when you are in a strange country, they have certain standards and certain immunities but we don’t always have them,″ Cotlar said.

In December, the 833rd, a 50-bed hospital from Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, treated 80 cases of salmonella in one day. The outbreak was traced to eggs.


THE PERSIAN GULF (AP) - Crew members from the British destroyer, the HMS Exeter, came face-to-face with the horrors of war when they collected the bodies of Iraqi marines floating in the Persian Gulf.

″I cried. These had been young, fit men, probably with wives at home,″ said a doctor who led the mission.

So far, Royal Navy units in the gulf have recovered the remains of 11 Iraqis.

Surgeon Lt. Jonathan Easterbrook, 29, led two seamen in a small boat to where the remains of three Iraqis had been spotted by the crew aboard the British repair ship Diligence.

The bodies were identified as Iraqi marines and Easterbrook said they almost certainly were from patrol boats shot up by the allies two weeks ago.

Under the terms of the Geneva Convention, bodies must either be repatriated or given local burials.

″It was impossible to recover one of the bodies so we said a prayer, held a short service, and weighted the remains so they sank,″ Easterbrook said.

The other two bodies were taken to a British supply ship, the Argus, and buried at sea with full military honors.


NEAR THE KUWAIT BORDER (AP) - Marines guarding their camp got a lesson in how close the war really is when a dozen figures appeared about 200 yards out in the darkness.

A sentry shouted ″Halt 3/8″ and the figures hit the ground. The jumpy Marines grabbed their guns and locked and loaded. The unexpected guests jumped up and ran.

The Marines believe the men were ″line-walkers,″ or Iraqi deserters coming across the border to give themselves up, said Capt. Doug Simmang, 31, of Dallas, Texas, commanding officer of the 2nd Marine Division infantry company.

The incident took place several nights ago and pointed up the difficulty in distinguishing friend from foe in the desert and the problems of communicating when the two sides have no common language.

″We scared them off, but we learned our lesson,″ Simmang said.

Since then, leaflets with a list of simple commands in Arabic - ″Hands up,″ ″Surrender,″ ″Stop or I’ll shoot″ are a few - have been distributed to the troops in hopes of easing communication problems.

Elsewhere, front-line Marines are preparing for possible hand-to-hand combat when they attempt to breach Iraq’s border defenses in a ground war.

Such fighting is most likely to occur when the Marines move in on trenches where Iraqi soldiers are positioned behind berms and minefields that line the entire Saudi-Kuwaiti border, troops said.

Whether hand-to-hand combat develops will depend on the effectiveness of air and artillery strikes on the trenches and the ability of machine-gun squads to knock out remaining Iraqi troops, Simmang said.


NORTHERN SAUDI ARABIA (AP) - Allied military commanders are expecting terrorist attacks against Patriot anti-missile batteries and other targets at the start of a ground war, a U.S. military intelligence official said.

″I don’t think we’re adequately prepared″ to defend against terrorist strikes, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. ″But I think we’re as ready as we’re ever going to be.″

Allied intelligence believes Iraqi special forces and several Palestinian groups have set up small groups in northern Saudi Arabia, he said.

The Iraqis and Palestinians are probably sharing information but running separate organizations, he said. The spies are possibly posing as nomadic Bedouins, the official said.

″One of their primary targets is going to be the Patriots,″ he said.

Of particular concern as a target is Hafr al-Batin, a Saudi city with a large Bedouin population near the border with Iraq.

″They’re waiting for a ground war to start before they do anything,″ the official said. ″That will be the best time - when everybody’s concerned with the ground war.″

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