Iraqi Troops Take 14 US Oil Workers
WASHINGTON (AP) _ At least 14 Americans are missing from Kuwait oil fields and U.S. officials believe they are in Iraqi hands, a State Department spokesman said today.
There are no reports of injuries to Americans in the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, but the State Department was advising the estimated 3,000 Americans in Kuwait and 500 in Iran to leave as soon as they can, said spokesman Richard Boucher.
He said, however, immediate departures would not be possible from Kuwait because of the fighting and because all airport and ports are closed.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad contacted officials of the Iraqi foreign ministry today to ask about the whereabouts of 14 missing Americans and to remind the Iraqis ″of their commitment to safeguard the safety of Americans,″ said spokesman Richard Boucher.
In the early hours of the Iraqi invasion, which began before dawn Thursday, Iraqi officials promised U.S. authorities in Baghdad that Americans would not be harmed, Boucher said.
He said privacy laws do not allow public disclosure of the companies the missing Americans worked for or their names, but another official said the Iraqis had been given those details and information about the circumstances of the disappearances to help in gaining their return.
Iraq has provided no information about those missing, Boucher said.
The 14 were taken from three different oil fields near the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, Boucher said.
″We can’t confirm they’re in Iraqi control but we believe they are,″ he said.
Although the government gave no details about the missing, family members of employees of Santa Fe Drilling Co. of California said the company had contacted them about missing relatives.
Larry Neal, a spokesman for Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, said State Department officials indicated to him that most of the oil field workers were employed by Santa Fe Drilling.
A Shreveport, La., woman said she received a call from Santa Fe Drilling that her husband, Donald G. Whatley, was missing. Whatley has been working as a drilling supervisor for Santa Fe in Kuwait, said Doris Whatley.
She said Whatley had just returned to the oil operation after vacationing in Shreveport.
″They took him from his rig this morning and they took him across the border (to Iraq),″ she said Thursday. ″He just barely had arrived there in time for them to take him off his rig.″
Mrs. Whatley said she had not heard from State Department officials about her husband, but officials of Santa Fe Drilling called her to say he was missing.
″I don’t want him to be forgotten like the rest of the hostages in the Middle East have been,″ she said.
In Gilmer, Texas, the family of Charles Amos, 56, said he was among those rounded up by Iraqi soldiers. Amos also works for Santa Fe, the family said.
″We are holding out for whatever information we can get,″ said son David Amos.
State Department officials told the Amos family that he’d been moved by soldiers who invaded Kuwait on Thursday morning, the younger Amos told KLTV and the Longview News-Journal.
″We were set to have a family reunion this weekend, and dad was going to fly out of Kuwait″ early Thursday morning, said his daughter, Karen Amos. ″But we got the call from the State Department about 2 p.m.″
Amos has been traveling and working overseas for more than 20 years, his son said.
A short time before a State Department official disclosed the suspected roundup of some Americans, President Bush was asked about reports that American workers in Kuwait had been taken into custody.
″I don’t have anything on that right now,″ he said. ″Secondly, it would affect us in a very dramatic way because I view a fundamental responsibility of my presidency is protecting American citizens. If they’re put into harm’s way I have certain responsibilities.″