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Kuwait: Desert Dispatch -- Kuwait City Under Constant Air-Raid Alerts

  • Charles Recknagel

Yesterday, Iraq launched several rockets into Kuwait, hitting close to U.S. military positions and triggering air-raid sirens in Kuwait City. RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel is in Kuwait City and filed this report at around 10:00 a.m. Prague time today.

QUESTION:What has been happening in Kuwait City since yesterday's missile attacks?

RECKNAGEL: We've had continuing air-raid alerts last night and this morning, but there is very little information available about what's happening. State radio is spending most of the time playing national songs interspersed with civil defense instructions, and when it does announce a missile attack, it is only afterwards that they say a missile was shot down. We have very little idea how many air raids are real and how many are false alarms or how long the Iraq missile threat might continue.

QUESTION: How much information is being released about what is happening in Iraq? Are you able to get close to the Kuwait-Iraq border?

RECKNAGEL: Information about what the U.S. armed forces are doing is also very limited here and in Qatar, where the U.S. Central Command has its regional headquarters for the war. The U.S. and British military are not holding high-level briefings in Kuwait City on a regular basis, and there is still no access to the north of the country, which is a sealed area, or across the border for anyone except the correspondents who are embedded with the troops and who file their reports under some military restrictions.

QUESTION: How are the journalists in Kuwait planning to proceed into Iraq? Who is controlling the border?

RECKNAGEL: There are about 1,000 journalists here in Kuwait City who are not embedded with the troops, and most of them have prepared four-wheel-drive vehicles to go into Iraq. Everyday, more vehicles are going to the checkpoints to try to get into the closed northern area of the country, hoping that the border will open, but it is not clear when the border will open or who will make the decision. Kuwaiti officials say that because Kuwait is not taking part in the conflict, the U.S. military will make the decision. But British officials said recently here that the coalition will leave the decision to Kuwait, so we'll have to wait and see how long it takes.