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Iraq: Desert Dispatch -- The Situation In Umm Qasr

RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel filed this report today from Kuwait near the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. He crossed over into Iraq yesterday but was prevented from doing so today by Kuwaiti border guards. Recknagel reports the border is much more carefully guarded after three journalists were killed in Iraq yesterday. QUESTION: Can you tell us what is going on around Umm Qasr today where Iraqi troops launched a counterattack this morning?

RECKNAGEL: We're about three kilometers from Umm Qasr, at a forward observation post on the Kuwaiti side of the border. We're looking over the berm and trench that mark the border, and we can see the port clearly. One oil well which was apparently set afire in an allied air strike earlier today is continuing to burn, throwing up clouds of black smoke.

QUESTION: Describe more of what you can see.

RECKNAGEL: There's a U.S. Apache helicopter hovering a few hundred meters over the east end of the port, acting as a lookout or doing reconnaissance. The wind is coming directly from the port towards us, and there are no sounds of fighting now. It's unclear from here exactly where the Iraqi counterattack took place, because it was on the northern side of the port.

QUESTION: Anything else?

RECKNAGEL: The counterattack has caused Kuwait to rush heavy tanks up to the berm, where they have taken up positions every kilometer or so against any spillover of fighting across the border. At the same time, Kuwaiti military bulldozers are filling up the holes in the berm that were created to let U.S.-led forces through for the initial invasion earlier this week. Kuwait is on high alert.