Iraq’s Kurd allies to attack

USA TODAY
September 9, 1996, Monday, FINAL EDITION
BYLINE: Tom Squitieri
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1A
LENGTH: 377 words
DATELINE: SALAHADIN, Iraq

— A Kurdish faction backed by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein prepared to launch an all-out offensive today in hopes of eliminating its rival for good.

Leaders of the Kurdish Democratic Party, after capturing the key towns of Degala and Kuysanjaq Sunday, said they will push east toward Iran to take a hydroelectric plant and a crucial mountain ridge.

Thousands of refugees reportedly were fleeing to Iran.

U.S. officials said there was no evidence Iraq was intervening on Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani’s side as it did Aug. 31 in helping him take Irbil.

But Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that the United States would strike again if the Iraqi leader steps in.

“Saddam Hussein needs to understand that we will not stand idly by while he threatens the security of his own people or his neighbors or the stability of the region,” Shalikashvili said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Last week, U.S. forces launched 44 cruise missiles against military targets in southern Iraq to punish Saddam for sending his troops to help Barzani’s forces.

U.S. officials in neighboring Turkey described the fighting between the Kurdish factions as a “real free-for-all” that threatened to deal a possible fatal blow to U.S. efforts to create a separate Kurdish area.

“We will wipe them out as a military force,” said Sami Abdul Rahman, senior aide to Barzani. “There will be no revenge, no killing after the battle, no torture.”

Jalal Talabani, leader of the rival Kurdish group, warned he would ask Iran to send troops into Iraq to help his side.

Meanwhile, Shalikashvili refused to comment on reports in The New York Times and Washington Post that the Iraqis, in their initial action, had broken up a CIA-sponsored covert operation directed against Saddam’s dictatorial government.

The Post reported Sunday that a small number of U.S. CIA officers fled to Turkey before the Iraqis moved into Irbil, but that Saddam’s forces had caught and executed 100 Iraqi dissidents.

Iraq Sunday said it fired anti-aircraft weapons at U.S. and allied aircraft patrolling no-fly zones but U.S. pilots said they haven’t detected an Iraqi response, The Associated Press said.