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Jubilant Kuwaitis Celebrate Liberation of Capital

February 28, 1991

KUWAIT CITY (AP) _ Kuwaitis wandering the streets of their newly liberated capital took in the full horror of Iraqi-wrought destruction today and recounted tales of torture and murder by the occupiers who fled.

But the burned-out buildings and acrid smoke from hundreds of oil wells set ablaze by Iraqi soldiers did not diminish the elation Kuwaitis felt at regaining their freedom.

Most Iraqi troops had fled by Tuesday afternoon as allied forces closed in to end nearly seven months of occupation. Marines fought the last die-hards near the airport on Wednesday, while Kuwaitis danced in the streets.

″I’d like to thank all the Americans, especially the families of soldiers who fought for Kuwait,″ said a doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ″I’m sure all the Kuwaitis will never forget the blood of those soldiers.″

Nazir Naccash, a Lebanese optician, said today: ″We thank everybody who gave us help, from our heart.″

The only gunfire still heard today came as jubilant Kuwaitis fired AK-47 rifles in the air. Women in black veils and robes chanted.

On Wednesday, arriving journalists were greeted by hundreds of Kuwaitis. Parading cars honked their horns. People waved Kuwaiti and American flags and said, ″Thank you, thank you.″ Some kissed the journalists.

People thronged Kuwait City’s beachfront and cars full of cheering people cruised the boulevard.

Families inspected the bunkers and several anti-aircraft pits the Iraqi army built on the beach. Some shelters still contained machine guns.

Residents assailed the Iraqis as kidnappers, torturers and murderers.

″We paid our blood to be free,″ said Habib al-Gharaab, a technical advisor to the criminal investigation department.

He said that as the allies approached Kuwait City, the Iraqis began destroying evidence of torture and killings. He said that as many as 5,000 Kuwaitis may have died in recent days, but said he couldn’t elaborate on how he had the figure or say where the bodies were.

A fire rescue worker, Mohammed al-Ajmi, said that perhaps 5,000 Kuwaitis were missing, but could not say whether they had been killed.

Al-Ajmi said that Iraqis also terrorized families by cutting off fingers, slashing faces and applying hot metal to shaven scalps.

The Iraqis tortured and killed Kuwaitis mostly in an effort to get names of the resistance and to punish people for hiding weapons or keeping picures of Kuwait’s emir, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah.

A Kuwaiti resistance guard at a road block in Kuwait, Abdul Hameid Quambar, 30, said an Iraqi soldier found an antique pistol under his pillow and executed his two sons to punish him.

Another Kuwaiti, Hassan Aweidah, described attrocities he said he knew about from friends. He said soldiers cut off peoples’ ears, drilled holes in their knees with power tools and used axes to attack others.

″These are not human beings,″ said Abdulla Alnafisi, public relations director for Kuwait Airways.

He said he and others had helped residents survive by running a secret operation that provided money, food and medicine to other Kuwaitis.

″We lived like animals,″ said Ibrahim Fedel, a middle-aged Kuwaiti in a boisterous crowd. ″No food, no water, no electricity, anything. Last week, we were all scared to go out.″

The occupation has nearly turned the once-glittering emirate into a Persian Gulf backwater. Countless buildings have been shattered, ransacked and others, many believe, booby-trapped.

There were few U.S. troops on the streets. Six Marines guarded the reopened U.S. Embassy. Three Army sightseers were repeatedly stopped by residents who shook their hands and posed for pictures with the soldiers.

In Paris, Defense Minister Pierre Joxe said Jean Bressot, France’s ambassador to Kuwait, was back in the emirate. He said the British and U.S. envoys had also returned to their posts - a report that could not be immediately confirmed.

U.S. military engineers were preparing to clear rubble, repair streets and rebuild seaports under a 90-day emergency program financed by the Kuwaiti government.

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