Civilians, US soldier wounded following arms dump attack in Baghdad; Britain: No asylum offer to Aziz
Unidentified assailants fired flares into an arms dump in Baghdad on Saturday, setting off a huge chain of explosions that lightly wounded a U.S. soldier and also caused civilian casualties, a U.S. officer said.
"Hostile forces fired four flares into an ammunition storage area. One of the flares ignited an explosion and that set off a chain of explosions," Captain Patrick Sullivan told Reuters.
Iraqis said that the blast had destroyed homes in the area and that people were buried in the rubble. Witnesses said that many Iraqis had been wounded in the explosion, and that some had severed limbs.
Angry Iraqis had stoned U.S. troops trying to reach the scene of the blast, witnesses said.
Loud explosions were heard in central Baghdad, coming from the outskirts of the capital just after 8 A.M. (0400 GMT), and went on for at least an hour. U.S. soldiers in the city center had earlier said the blasts were controlled detonations at an arms dump.
Meanwhile, the British government ridiculed Saturday media reports about the possibility of giving Iraqi Deputy Premier Tareq Aziz, now in US custody in Baghdad, asylum in swap for information on the whereabouts of Iraqi regime leaders and alleged weapons of mass destruction.
The Sun reported that Aziz had told his American captors he was willing to sell them his information in exchange for a new identity and residence in Britain.
Quoting an unnamed "insider", the paper said Aziz feared being executed by Iraqis or being detained by U.S. authorities.
Commenting on the report, a spokeswoman for Britain's Home Office said it "is ridiculous to suggest asylum will be granted to an individual who has been involved in activities that have abused the human rights of others."
"We do not have to consider it," she said.
Human rights groups in Britain Friday night said: “The guy is a murderous scumbag and we don’t want him here. He has got the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands.”
The Iraqi Community Association, representing 250,000 Iraqis who fled to Britain, condemned any deal. Spokesman Hashim Ali said: “It is unthinkable that Aziz gains protection in this country. He is a nasty, murderous man.” (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)