Kurds of Kirkuk, northern Iraq, flee Saddam threat

18 March 2003
Kurds from the cities of northern Iraq have begun fleeing to the mountains for fear of a chemical attack by Iraqi forces, London's Financial Times reported on 18 March. Residents of Erbil, Dohuk and Suleimanayah worry that they would be within range of weapons fired from Baghdad-controlled Iraq, and that these could be tipped with chemical or nerve agents. On 16 March, northern Iraqi Kurds marked the 15th anniversary of Saddam Hussein's chemical attack on Halabja, in which thousands lost their lives. Many are still suffering the consequences in the form of cancers and breathing problems. Some Kurdish officials have criticised the failure of the US to distribute gas masks in the region ahead of their imminent invasion of Iraq, when Kurds could be the victims of reprisal attacks (MEED 13:3:03).

Kurds have also been fleeing from the city of Kirkuk, controlled by Saddam Hussein's forces, reporting oppression by Iraqi soldiers. Those escaping into Kurdish Iraq told of the city, the centre of the Iraqi oil industry, being heavily militarised and of Kurds being arrested and kept under curfew.

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