U.N. Chief Sending More Guards To Checkpoints To Protect Aid Trucks
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Additional U.N. guards will be sent to protect convoys carrying aid to Iraqi Kurds, United Nations officials said today.
The World Food Program on Friday announced a temporary halt to a winter relief program for the Iraqi Kurds after several Turkish trucks carrying relief supplies were damaged by bombs believed planted by Iraqis.
The United Nations has asked Baghdad for visas for the new guards, who will be sent to two checkpoints in Iraq, said U.N. spokesman Joe Sills. It was not immediately clear how many more guards the United Nations proposed to send.
WFP spokesman Francis Mwanza said in Rome on Friday that 71 trucks had been held in Dahuk, northern Iraq, while the U.N. Secretary-General’s office considered the program’s request for more security.
The suspension came in response to the third series of bomb attacks on Turkish trucks in three weeks. On Wednesday, eight trucks were blown up. Bombs were defused on nine others, Mwanza said.
Iraqi Kurdish officials have said the trucks had been booby trapped after their drivers were taken away for questioning at an Iraqi checkpoint at Fidar. The drivers were returning after unloading supplies in the Kurdish-held part of northern Iraq.
Fidar is one of the checkpoints where the U.N. wants to beef up security, Sill said.
About 410 trucks in 25 convoys have made it safely into northern Iraq, carrying over 8,000 metric tons of food, seed and other supplies, Sills said.
Iraq’s 3.5 million Kurds have established a form of autonomy in northern Iraq under Western protection.