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12 human shields huddle at power plant

©Associated Press

March 22, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- When the allied missile attack on Iraq started Friday, Ingrid Ternert did not budge.

The Swedish math and physics teacher was among at least 12 "human shields" pledging to remain at a potential airstrike target: the Al-Douri power plant, which was damaged in the 1991 Gulf War. Ternert said she was risking her life because Iraqi children will suffer if the plant is destroyed.

"I'm here to try to protect this plant from getting bombed," she told journalists taken to visit the power station. "This is my way of showing that the people of Iraq have suffered enough."

The human shields hail from France, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Canada and the United States. They said they wanted to support Iraqi citizens against a war they called unjust and criminal.

Ternert, 56, and the others have been at Al-Douri since Feb. 13, surviving on dried food and sleeping four to a room.

U.S. officials have said there is no way to guarantee their safety.

It is not known how many human shields remain in Iraq, although there were estimates that more than 100 went to the country during the buildup to war.

The volunteers at Al-Douri said they knew of at least five other Americans elsewhere in the country. But many civilians left days ago.

Five foreigners who intended to be human shields were forced out of Iraq days before the war started because they criticized the government's choice of sites to protect, the head of the group said.

Ken O'Keefe, of Haleiwa, Hawaii, said his group chose locations essential to civilians, such as food warehouses. But he said the Iraqi government wanted the shields in more sensitive locations.

Carly Roberts, a spokeswoman at Human Shield Action's London headquarters, denied the group was under the Iraqi government's influence.

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