should like to start by addressing the shocking close
up pictures broadcast by Al Jazeera last night. They
claim that these show UK personnel killed during recent
operations. Quite apart from the obvious distress that
such pictures could cause friends and families of the
personnel concerned, such disgraceful behaviour is a
flagrant breach of the Geneva Convention. We have yet
to undertake formal identification but it is probable
that these are the two UK personnel who were listed
as missing last Sunday. Next of kin have been informed
that the two soldiers have now been categorised missing
believed killed. Our thoughts are with their families
decision by Al Jazeera to broadcast such material is
deplorable and we call upon them to desist from future
broadcasts of such a nature. I appreciate that all media
outlets have a strong desire for "exclusive"
pictures and we have no desire to limit journalistic
freedom in any way. However, all media outlets must
be aware of the limits of taste and decency and be wary
that they do not unwittingly become tools for Iraqi
recent days UK forces have been extremely active.
Royal Navy, United States Navy (including mine clearance
dolphins) and Australian naval forces have been involved
in a massive operation to sweep the shallow waters leading
into the Iraqi Port of Umm Qasr. The Royal Navy have
taken the lead in this operation as they are acknowledged
as the world experts in this type of work. Additionally,
divers from the Royal Navy and Australian Navy have
been clearing the port area. The mine threat to shipping
in the Khawr Abd Allah has so far prevented humanitarian
aid from being delivered by ship to the Iraqi people.
The threat is very real. Last night UK Mines hunters
discovered and then detonated two mines outside the
swept shipping channel. This proves beyond doubt that
Saddam's regime has attempted to stop essential stores
and humanitarian supplies from being delivered to his
own people. This also illustrates his disregard for
civilian shipping which may have encountered these mines.
The close co-operation between the three coalition naval
forces has cleared a channel but the overnight discoveries
of mines just outside the swept channel may now delay
the arrival of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Galahad
with her cargo of over 200 tons of aid donated by both
the Kuwaiti and UK Governments. The humanitarian aid
includes bulk food such as rice, lentils and chick peas;
flour; bottled water and World Health Organisation medical
packs. In the interim, essential humanitarian supplies
are being delivered over land.
to land operations, 3 Commando Brigade and the US 15
Marine Expeditionary Unit have completed operations
to mop up the last remnants of resistance on the Al
Faw peninsula. They have secured Umm Qasr and 3 Commando
Brigade are already starting the process of normalisation.
You have all seen the remarkable TV pictures of Royal
Marines engaging with the local population. After decades
of repression from Saddam's regime it is a testament
to the professionalism of our forces that the Iraqi
people are already getting their first taste of freedom.
Life is already moving on, there are already children
being born who will never have to suffer under this
regime. Four Two Commando are now sweeping the town
to remove the weapons and explosives left behind by
Iraqi forces - most of you will have seen the coverage
of weapons finds within a school in Umm Qasr.
life is returning to normality for some, there are,
of course, still many others who have yet to be liberated.
Elements of 7 Armoured Brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade
have been in action over recent days around Basra and
As Zubayr. In both of these locations, UK forces have
been taking the fight to the remnants of the regime's
paramilitary forces including the Special Security Organisation
and Ba'ath Party Militia.
we put together the force package for this operation
we knew we would have to deal with regime paramilitaries
- our force was therefore designed with this in mind.
The UK have deployed highly effective and experienced
infantry and Royal Marines who are expert in this type
of operation. The Regime Paramilitaries are beginning
to realise the level of our expertise. In As Zubayr,
members of the 1 Division took swift and crucial action
in the early hours of 26 March against these forces
- killing around 20 personnel. In a separate action,
they captured a senior Ba'ath Party Paramilitary official.
There is still Regime Paramilitary activity in this
town but at a much reduced level - UK forces are dealing
with the remnants on an opportunity basis.
Basrah, we have come up against some stiff opposition
from a mixture of Regime paramilitaries and the remnants
of the Iraqi Army's 51st Division who we believe have
been coerced by the Regime to re-occupy their equipment.
On Tuesday, 1 UK Armoured Division using AS-90 Self
Propelled Artillery destroyed 11 firing positions for
heavy mortars, D-30 artillery and T-55 Tanks on the
outskirts of the city. Later that day, a column of around
20 armoured vehicles left Basrah in an attempt to engage
UK forces. They were destroyed by a combination of AS-90
Artillery, coalition aircraft including Tornado GR4
and Harrier GR7 and 3 Commando Brigade using Milan.
darkness fell on Tuesday, UK forces saw the first signs
of overt resistance to the regimes grip in Basrah. Sporadic
small arms fire was reported in one area of the city
and regime paramilitaries started firing mortars and
artillery on their own people. UK artillery responded
by destroying these regime artillery and mortar position.
The Ba'ath party command element was also effectively
targeted in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
was calmer throughout the majority of Wednesday but
again a column of Iraqi Tanks and armoured vehicles
left Basra heading South West towards UK forces. Having
established that these forces were not trying to surrender,
UK forces took swift and decisive action against this
threat destroying a number through a mixture of artillery
and coalition air power. The people of Basra are starting
to recognise that UK forces will deal decisively, and
on our terms, with the remnants of the regime.
of 7 Armoured Brigade and 16 Air Assault Brigade have
secured the Rumaylah oilfields and our Explosive Ordnance
Disposal teams are continuing the difficult and dangerous
task of clearing the munitions and booby traps that
the regime left behind. Coalition and Kuwaiti fire-fighters
are dealing with the well head fires in a systematic
and effective way. Three well head fires have been extinguished
and they are working on the remaining six well heads
that were set ablaze as the regime retreated. These
oilfields are critical to the future reconstruction
and prosperity of Iraq. It is estimated that it will
cost around $1billion to upgrade the oil infrastructure
to allow the field to yield its capacity of around 1.8M
barrels per day. We expect that Iraq will be exporting
oil within three months as part of the oil for food
from providing close air support to ground operations,
the Royal Air Force has been flying around 100 sorties
per day. In addition to our offensive sorties our tankers
and AWACS play a key supporting role in the coalition's
air effort. Our Tornado GR4s and Harrier GR7s have attacked
targets ranging from regime headquarters, ammunition
dumps, airfields, Integrated Air Defence System installations
and Iraqi fielded forces. Meanwhile, the RAF's Tornado
F3s have been providing fighter patrols to protect airfields,
land forces and high value air assets. The Joint Helicopter
Force including RAF Chinooks and Pumas, Royal Navy Sea
Kings and Army Lynx's have been supporting ground and
maritime forces throughout the UK area of operations.
The RAF Regiment have been providing airfield security
to Allied airfields, Short Range Air defence and have
also deployed into Iraq to protect a forward operating
base for helicopter operations.
forces will continue to make a significant contribution
to all aspects of coalition operations across the whole
theatre until we achieve our objectives. We will not
rest until this regime and the threat it poses to the
world through weapons of mass destruction are both eradicated.
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