View Full Version : First shots fired at sea as allied battle plan unfolds

03-19-03, 07:03 AM
March 19, 2003

First shots fired at sea as allied battle plan unfolds

By David Sharrock in Kuwait and Michael Evans, Defence Editor

THE first shots of the war have been fired, killing at least one Iraqi during a suspected operation to mine the waters off Kuwait. But that opening skirmish is about to be dwarfed by the most formidable military assault in modern warfare: 250,000 British and American troops — backed by more than 1,000 aircraft, 400 tanks and a 110-strong armada — are poised to unleash their awesome power on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq the moment the order is given.
The first clash occurred in the mouth of the Khawr al-Zubayr river, a few miles south of the port of Umm Qasr, when a Kuwaiti gunboat challenged a flotilla of about 25 Iraqi dhows. The boats failed to respond and the Kuwaitis opened fire. It was unclear whether the dhows had laid any mines.

The Royal Navy has four mine counter-measure vessels in the Gulf which were searching the waterway last night.

Tensions in the waters off Iraq are running high and coalition ships are alert to the threat of mines and terrorist strikes. A British ship escorting Royal Navy and US minesweepers was threatened yesterday while at anchor in the northern Gulf. A cargo vessel, feared to be on an al-Qaeda suicide mission, came within 800 yards of RFA Sir Bedivere during a tense hour-long stand-off. Crew members trained two machineguns on the 500-tonne ship, The stand-off ended only when it was driven away by the heavily armed USS Ardent.