UK Wary of Cole-Style Iraqi Attacks during Joint Exercise with Oman
Britain has imposed security measures to pre-empt attacks by pro-Iraqi elements allegedly aiming at undermining plans to launch a major military exercise with Oman later this year, according to a report by the Middle East Newsline (MENL).
The news service said there had been warnings that British soldiers or civilians in the Gulf could come under such attacks during the Swift Sword II exercise.
The maneuvers will involve about 20,000 British troops and be the largest such exercise planned by London.
About 13,000 Omani troops will take part and the sultanate will also deploy 40 fighter planes and 11 warships, AFP quoted General Saud Al Habsi, the deputy chief of staff of the sultanate's armed forces, as saying Monday.
The top officer said that "the high point of the Omani-British military exercises will take place from the second week of October until October 26.
"The British troops are expected from the start of September in Oman and preliminary exercises are to take place in the first week of October," the general said.
He added that teams of military observers from other Gulf states, Egypt, France, India, Iran, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey and the United States would take part.
British defense sources were quoted by MENL as saying the security measures would seek to protect UK forces in Oman. The force will include warships and fighter-jets.
The fear is that British interests will come under a similar attack to the suicide assault on the USS Cole in October 2000. Seventeen US sailors were killed in the bombing, which was attributed to Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden.
"We were extremely conscious of the Cole incident and we have put in place contingency plans so that ships have the necessary protection," a British officer told a briefing.
British military commanders have not ruled out a delay or cancellation of the exercise if they receive information of an imminent attack in the Gulf.
Swift Sword plans to test the reaction of British forces to a scenario in which Omani oil fields are invaded. The unstated aggressor is Iraq, said the MENL report - Albawaba.com
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