Expatica news

Dutch troops in Iraqi gun battle

9 April 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch peacekeeping soldiers in Iraq were involved in a gun battle around a local government building in the city As Samawah on Thursday night, a Defence Ministry spokesman said on Friday.

As US troops battled to regain control in cities elsewhere, small-calibre arms fire and a rocket grenade were fired at the government building and Dutch troops returned fire. No injuries or arrests have been reported.

But Dutch troops were deployed to intensify security overnight as three nearby bridges were sealed off. One of the bridges was occupied by members of the Dutch Quick Reaction Force. Patrols were also ordered to track down the gunmen.

Calm was restored to the area later that night and the Dutch troops returned to base. It is not yet known if an investigation has yielded definite answers about the incident, news agency ANP reported.

One year after the fall of Saddam Hussein on Friday, US troops were locked in desperate battles against gunmen in the Sunni region near Baghdad — the old regime’s heartland — and Iraq’s Shia cities.

The Dutch deployment of up to 1,300 troops is based in the provincial capital of As Samawah in the thinly-populated southern province Al Muthanna. The Dutch have, so far been spared the heavy violence seen elsewhere in Iraq.

But the Dutch troops have been placed on extra alert and activities outside the perimeter will be restricted as a result of the heightened alert. Patrols will continue and additional security measures have been taken.

Several explosions were heard on Wednesday night at the Japanese base camp, a few kilometres away from the Dutch base.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands said it is not planning to withdraw diplomatic staff from the Iraqi capital despite the worsening security situation. There are currently five embassy staff members in Iraq.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry said the recent kidnappings of foreign nationals by Iraqi militants have not led to tighter security precautions. Security at the embassy is already at a maximum.

The Dutch gave political but not military support to the US-led invasion of Iraq last year and deployed peacekeeping troops last summer. The mission is expected to be extended until at least the end of this year.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news