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Human Shields Remain at Potential Targets

Human Shields Remain at Potential Targets


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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- 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 and 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 and the United States. They said they wanted to support Iraqi citizens against a war they called unjust and criminal.

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

U.S. officials have said there is no way to guarantee the shields' safety.

It is not known how many human shields remained in Iraq, although there were estimates that more than 100 were heading to the country during the buildup to this week's attack by the U.S.-led coalition.

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 went to Iraq intending to be human shields were forced out of the country just 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 the civilian population," such as food storage warehouses. But he said the Iraqi government wanted the shields in more sensitive locations.

Several others who drove from London to Baghdad on double-decker buses last month returned home, said Christian Briggs, a spokesman for the group of mostly European activists. They feared for their safety or had financial concerns, he said.

Maria Ermanno, chairwoman of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, Sweden's largest peace group, urged human shields to leave Iraq at the end of last month, saying they were being used for propaganda purposes by Saddam Hussein.

The Rev. Frederick K. Boyle, pastor of the Millbrook United Methodist Church in Randolph, N.J., planned to travel to Baghdad as a human shield but then joined a Christian humanitarian mission and left the country after about a week.

He believed the human shields were working too closely with the Iraqi government, he said.

"As an American, and as a patriot, and as a pastor, I did not feel at all comfortable in having my mission compromised in that way," Boyle said.

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

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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