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Iraqis Killed and Pillaged, Refugees Say : Middle East: Most fled before the invaders closed Kuwait's borders. Others slipped across the desert.

August 08, 1990|From Associated Press

MANAMA, Bahrain — Numbed by terror and loss, Kuwaiti refugees are telling of desperate attempts to escape the Iraqi assault wave and of invaders killing people who tried to stop them from entering private homes.

One refugee, 7-year-old Fahd, said Iraqi soldiers had forced their way into his family's Kuwait City home and made them turn over everything they owned.

Ghanem al-Asimi, who worked at Kuwait International Airport, described how Iraqi troops were "beating up people, stealing cars and forcing drivers to stop, shooting them if they disobeyed."

Asimi and other Kuwaitis spoke in the cafeteria of a hotel in Bahrain, to which they had fled after Thursday's invasion.

"Everybody was hysterical," he said. "We kept getting calls from friends saying that a few families who tried to stop Iraqis from entering their homes were shot dead."

The bulk of refugees who made it out were those who fled south on the first and second days of the invasion, before the Iraqis stretched their forces along the borders. More recent arrivals slipped through the desert.

In Dubai, the capital of the neighboring United Arab Emirates, a number of Europeans said they had sneaked across the Kuwaiti desert to safety, pushed by a general desperation and a fear of food shortages in Kuwait.

Jeremy Upton, a 28-year-old Briton, said Iraqi artillery hitting targets in Kuwait City persuaded him he "had to go for it fast."

"I was looking north to the city and about 15 miles away saw the shells hitting," he said. "It was probably the palace, and that really brought it home."

Upton, a shipping company employee, grabbed his 2-year-old daughter and his Kuwaiti wife and fled.

Leaving behind all personal belongings, they jumped into a Jeep and drove 840 miles to Saudi Arabia and on to Dubai on the southern Persian Gulf.

Helena Von Schantz, a 31-year-old Stockholm native, and her husband Mikael Wiberg, an electronics engineer, fled by car with their daughter and son and a German technician.

They left Kuwait shortly after sunrise Sunday, driving to Bahrain from Abu Halifa, a southern suburb of Kuwait City.

"It was safer to risk our lives this way than remain behind," Von Schantz said. "Food supplies were beginning to run out in Kuwait.

"The soldiers in our area seemed almost apologetic and uncomfortable about having invaded Kuwait. But soldiers near the border were different, exuding a feeling of power."

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