Iraq Frees 100 UK Hostages
The 9th of December 1990 AD
Saddam Hussein showed his ruthlessness from the outset of his Kuwait campaign in 1990: his forces began to take foreign civilian hostages in Kuwait as they swept through the country; a BA flight that put down there on a refuelling stop was seized and its passengers led away to join the increasing numbers of so-called 'human shields' allocated to strategic locations like dams and power stations, making air-attacks very difficult.
The Iraqi leader was in poor company: the tactic had been used by the Nazis on the Eastern Front in brutal fashion, civilians driven before advancing soldiers. Iraq’s use of human shields was a clear contravention of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and it weakened the already extremely limited international support for Saddam’s actions. The policy also produced a creepy image for the world of an obviously terrified five-year-old boy refusing to sit on the dictator’s knee as Iraq’s president tried to look benevolent - and failed dismally.
Politicians like Edward Heath and Tony Benn travelled to the region to negotiate for the hostages to be released, and in December their efforts began to pay off, the first flight with 100 of their number arriving back at Heathrow on December 9.
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