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Iraqi boat trades fire with 2 Kuwaiti vessels

©Associated Press
December 4, 2002

KUWAIT CITY -- An Iraqi vessel traded gunfire with two Kuwaiti coast guard boats Tuesday in northern Kuwaiti waters, near a border that has been tense but relatively peaceful since the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

Nobody was wounded by gunfire near the tiny island of Warba, but one Kuwaiti crewman was hurt slightly when the coast guard speedboats collided, the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry said.

There was no immediate word from Iraq on the incident.

The coast guard patrol was caught by surprise by the 10 a.m. attack, but returned fire until the small Iraqi boat retreated, an Interior Ministry official said, according to the Associated Press.

He did not know what type of Iraqi boat was involved.

Such incidents along the Kuwait-Iraq border are not unheard of since the Gulf War, but few have been reported in recent years.

In 1997, Kuwait accused Iraq of opening fire on more than one occasion, including shooting at a border watchtower under construction and at three coast guard boats.

Baghdad, meanwhile, has complained several times to the United Nations that Kuwaitis have attacked Iraqi boats.

The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry official said no extra precautions were being taken after Tuesday's incident.

Ties between Kuwait and Iraq have been severed since 1991, when a U.S.-led coalition liberated this small, oil-rich state from a seven-month Iraqi occupation. The closed border between the two countries is monitored by the U.N. Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission, or UNIKOM.

"We have no confirmation of this incident," said Daljeet Bagga, spokesman for the observers. "We are still investigating."

Several UNIKOM officers are on Warba island, which falls on the Kuwaiti side of the demilitarized area along the border, Bagga said. Warba is separated from the Iraqi mainland by a narrow channel.

At the Pentagon, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had no information about the incident. "We're chasing down the details," he said.

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