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 propaganda.
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 programme.
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.
Crown Copyright 2003