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Blair accused of 'callous cover-up' over Saddam's human shields

UK Daily Mail | February 4, 2007
JONATHAN OLIVER

Tony Blair has been accused of a cover-up over why a passenger jet was allowed to land in Kuwait during the first Gulf War, condemning almost 400 Britons to brutal captivity.

The men, women and children on the British Airways Boeing 747 were bombed on the runway by the Iraqi airforce before being split up and sent to 70 locations to act as Saddam Hussein's human shields.

It is claimed that the jumbo jet was allowed to go ahead with its scheduled stop at Kuwait - despite the Iraqi invasion - to allow seven British special agents to enter the country to spy on Saddam's forces. Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker has written repeatedly to Downing Street demanding answers. But he says Mr Blair has refused even to acknowledge his correspondence.

During their four months in captivity some of the 376 passengers lived on starvation rations. Women - and men - were raped and others suffered serious beatings.

The chilling images of Saddam stroking the hair of terrified five-year-old Stuart Lockwood highlighted the human shields' plight to the world.

Mr Baker said: "At the time of that Iraq war, Tony Blair oozed anguished concern for those who were suffering under Saddam.

"Yet here we have British people who were held hostage by the dictator for months in traumatic circumstances and the Prime Minister not only refuses to meet them but won't even reply to letters written on behalf of the passengers and crew by an MP.

"Once again, the wide gulf between what the Prime Minster says and what he does has been exposed.

"This is callous hypocrisy at its worst. This morally bankrupt Prime Minister couldn't care less about these British citizens and what they have suffered."

BA flight 149 stopped over at Kuwait City on August 2, 1990, en route to Malaysia. The then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her successor John Major told the Commons that the flight landed before Saddam's invasion had begun. But now it has been revealed that the plane arrived after Iraq had crossed the border.

The passengers claim that when they landed, the airport information board showed every other flight cancelled - including some from hours before.

Mr Baker, MP for Lewes in Sussex, believes the flight was allowed to continue on its route because of the need to insert a team of former SAS and Special Boat Service members to spy on Iraqi forces from behind enemy lines.

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