Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Monday, April 14, 2003

Ba'athists on the run onboard oil tankers?

As US-led forces put a former Iraqi oil minister on their most-wanted list—to be killed, captured, or pursued—the Greek coast guard was reported to be seeking three oil tankers in the Eastern Mediterranean carrying fugitive Iraqi officials.

The Greek coast guard was placed on high alert over the weekend after US authorities warned that 3 tankers, said to have sailed from "a Middle Eastern port," were carrying top Iraqi officials and could be heading for Greek waters.

Coast guard sources said air and sea patrols were stepped up in response to the US tanker tip-off, according to Greek press reports.

The ships, according to information made available to the Greek coast guard, were headed for a European Union port and would probably pass through international waters south of Crete within the next few days.

Greek coast guard vessels, including patrol boats equipped with advanced electronic tracking devices and manned with special forces, have already set off for Crete from the eastern Aegean. The coast guard also is in close cooperation with the Greek navy and NATO officials.

US-led coalition forces earlier said they were committed to capturing Iraqi leadership attempting to flee via sea, and they were using all available military assets to capture them.

"This includes using the full capabilities of US and coalition military aircraft, warships, submarines, and satellites," the US Fifth Fleet said in a statement on Mar. 21. "As part of this search operation, US Fifth Fleet and coalition forces are currently querying commercial vessels in the region, particularly those operating in vicinity of Umm Qasr and Khor Abd Allah waterways.

"Anyone suspected of assisting or transporting Iraqi leadership should expect to be boarded, and will risk the sinking or seizure of vessel, and will be detained and jailed," the Navy said.

Apart from his service as oil minister, Rasheed was a general in the Iraqi army and is believed to have overseen previous manufacture of weapons. Rasheed became oil minister in June 1995, but was unexpectedly removed from the position in January this year. The official reason for his removal was that he was beyond Iraq's mandatory retirement age of 63.

Experts questioned whether the sudden departure of Rasheed was connected to the role of his wife, Rihab Taha, known to be near the top of a list of biological weapons scientists UN arms inspectors were trying to interview.

Hmmm. I wonder where in the EU Saddamites on the run would find comfort and welcome?

< email | 4/14/2003 04:09:00 PM | link

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