Dutch on alert, but will stay in Iraq

13th November 2003, Comments 0 comments

13 November 2003, AMSTERDAM — Dutch troops — stationed a short distance from the scene of Wednesday's devastating suicide bomb attack on the Italian headquarters in Iraq — will not be withdrawn, the Dutch Defence Ministry has said. The force, however, has been placed on the highest alert.

13 November 2003

AMSTERDAM — Dutch troops — stationed a short distance from the scene of Wednesday's devastating suicide bomb attack on the Italian headquarters in Iraq — will not be withdrawn, the Dutch Defence Ministry has said. The force, however, has been placed on the highest alert.

Defence Minister Henk Kamp told MPs on Wednesday night that the risks faced by the Dutch force of 1,100 marines based in the Al Muthanna province in southern Iraq had become "somewhat greater", but there were no plans to pull them out.

The Dutch troops have been placed on the highest alert status, with all but essential movement of soldiers being cancelled. The soldiers will, nevertheless, continue patrols in the region.

Kamp said that so long as the local population was willing to continue co-operating with the stabilisation force and the risk remained "manageable", the Dutch would remain in Iraq.

The minister conceded that the problems in Iraq where coming closer to where the Dutch troops were stationed, but Al Muthanna remained relatively peaceful. "We hope that it will remain so," he said.

Despite pressure from a majority of MPs, Kamp said his department would not draw up a new security assessment as a direct result of the attack on the Italian headquarters, which killed 27 people — 18 Italians and nine Iraqis.

"We make a security analysis every day, we are constantly working on this. We examine what the situation is and whether the risks are manageable," the minister said.

MPs pressed for a new analysis in the light of the attack on the Italian base and a leaked report from the Central Intelligence Agency in the US which predicted that resistance to the US and British-led coalition forces in Iraq could spread to all areas of Iraq.

Until the latest suicide bombing, nearly all attacks were focused on the region in and around the capital Baghdad and Saddam Hussein's power base in Tikrit. The south of the country, which is under overall command of British forces, was considered relatively peaceful.

The demolished Italian headquarters is 20km from a US base where three Dutch Chinook heavy-lifting transport helicopters and 80 Dutch troops are stationed. One of the helicopters was used on Wednesday to help ferry the wounded from the scene of the bombing to hospital.

The largest Dutch encampment of 600 Dutch soldiers is about 80km from the Italian base. The Dutch Cabinet has been insisting since the summer deployment that Al Muthanna is "relatively peaceful", but that this could change at any time.

But MPs of the Democrat D66 party — which is in government with the much larger Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD parties — emphasised on Wednesday that the US government must return power to Iraqis and the UN as soon as possible. Democrat MP Bert Bakker warned that failure to do so could trigger more attacks.

"In the current situation all sorts of terrorist movements can make use of the broad annoyance over the US and British occupation. This helps to 'legitimise' acts of terror," Bakker said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2003]

Subject: Dutch news

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