Dutch troops on extra alert amid Iraq turmoil
7 April 2004 , AMSTERDAM — As coalition troops battle to quell renewed violence in Iraq, the 1,260 Dutch troops stationed in the south of the country have been placed on extra alert
7 April 2004
AMSTERDAM — As coalition troops battle to quell renewed violence in Iraq, the 1,260 Dutch troops stationed in the south of the country have been placed on extra alert
Dutch Defence Minister Henk Kamp said in Brussels on Tuesday that the situation around the Dutch camp remained peaceful, but activities outside the perimeter will be restricted as a result of the heightened alert and advice from the British who are in charge of the sector.
Patrols will continue and additional security measures will be taken. Henk also said patrols will be reinforced, news agency ANP reported.
About 20 coalition soldiers and 100 Iraqis have reportedly been killed across Iraq in clashes in the past three days with both Shia and Sunni Muslim gunmen.
The violence is centered within the so-called "Sunni triangle" — a hotbed of anti-coalition activity around the northern cities of Ramadi, Falluja and Tikrit. But clashes with Shia militias in towns south of Baghdad are also a major worry for coalition troops.
The Shia-led violence has opened a second front for US-led coalition troops who had previously been facing mainly Sunni supporters of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, BBC reported.
Minister Kamp admitted it was concerning that the violence in Iraq had spread to the south of the country, but Liberal VVD leader Jozias van Aartsen said: "This is not the moment for the Netherlands to march out of Iraq".
He also hopes the Parliament and the Cabinet will not follow the lead of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who threatened after the Madrid bombings and his subsequent election victory to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq.
On request from the government coalition member Democrat D66, Minister Kamp will soon inform the Parliament by letter about the changing security situation in Iraq. MPs want to debate the matter next week.
But the Christian Democrat CDA of Prime Minister Balkenende has also rejected a withdrawal from Iraq. The party's parliamentary leader, Maxime Verhagen, said despite the renewed concerns, Dutch troops were sent to Iraq to help restore security.
The CDA asserts that the troops should only be pulled out if the situation worsens to the extent they can no longer perform their duties. But extra protection, such as Apache combat helicopters, might first be deployed in their patrol region to maintain security.
The US has made it clear that it wants the Netherlands to remain in Iraq beyond 1 July and prior to the latest outbreak of violence, the cabinet was expected to extend the mission until at least the end of this year.
The Netherlands gave "political, but not military" support to the US-led invasion of Iraq last year and dispatched peacekeeping troops to the region last summer. They are based at the city As Samawah.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news