American Women and Children Fly Out From Kuwait
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ An Iraqi Airways jetliner with 171 American women and children on board landed in Jordan today, the first U.S.-chartered airlift to arrive from conquered Kuwait.
The Americans described conditions in Kuwait, which was taken over on Aug. 2 by Iraq, as appalling. They said foreigners are terrified of Iraq’s occupation forces, who have been rounding up Westerners.
″It’s terrible there. People are frightened, they’re in hiding, running out of food,″ said Patricia Hammer of Denver, Colo.
She said she was shot at by Iraqi troops when she tried to escape from Kuwait across the desert several weeks ago. She said she was abandoned by her escorts and later saved by Bedouins.
″We made our way back to Kuwait where I hid, moving from flat to flat,″ she said. Ms. Hammer said she registered with the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait for the special flight two days ago.
″This morning, I dressed up in a black veil like an Iranian Shiite woman and made my way to the pickup point. A Kuwaiti friend followed me to make sure I got there,″ she said.
The flight made a stop in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, where passengers picked up Iraqi exit permits. A U.S. Embassy source at the airport in Amman said 171 American women and children were aboard the charter. Earlier reports had put the number at 170.
Hundreds of Western women and children held by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein have been allowed to leave, but men are being kept as human shields against attack.
A woman who identified herself only as Ruthie, from Memphis, Tenn., said she had to leave her husband behind. She was traveling with her three children, ages eight, seven and three.
″Many people are still hiding in their homes and are very afraid,″ she said.
Mary Willett, 35, of Chicago, said of the situation in Kuwait: ″It’s a disaster.″
Another evacuee, Maureen Aldakheel of St. Louis, was asked what she thought President Bush should do.
’Go for it. Do something. People are tired of waiting for something to happen,″ she said. ″People are tired of hoping every day for some news of a military strike.″
The evacuees were taken from the airport to a hotel to wait for the arrival of a charter that will fly them home. U.S. embassy officials at the airport would not disclose plans for the flight to the United States.
A handful of Americans were evacuated by air from Kuwait last week at the intervention of U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. But most other Westerners leaving Kuwait have had to travel across the desert in scorching summer heat to catch planes out Baghdad.
Earlier today, a British Airways flight arrived in London carrying 252 British women and children from Kuwait and Iraq. It was the biggest group of Britons yet to leave the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
There were an estimated 21,000 Westerners in Iraq and Kuwait when Baghdad invaded Kuwait. They included 3,000 Americans.
On Thursday, Baghdad said foreigners caught trying to leave without permission could face life in prison.
The State Department on Thursday blasted Iraq for its treatment of foreign nationals, including the shooting of an American in Kuwait who was trying to avoid capture. Department spokesman Mark Dillen called Iraq’s behavior ″outrageous.″
″We hold the Iraqi government responsible for the health and welfare of all American citizens held against their will in Kuwait and Iraq,″ Dillen said.