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Nurse backs up report of Iraqi atrocity

A head nurse at a Kuwaiti hospital has stepped forward with new evidence in a disputed report of an Iraqi atrocity, saying she saw Iraqi troops rip babies from incubators during the occupation of Kuwait.

Salwa Ali, head nurse at Kuwait's al-Adan hospital, told Reuters in an interview Sunday that she saw at least eight babies removed from life-support machines by Iraqis who wanted to send vital medical equipment to Iraq.

Her testimony and new accounts from other medical personnel in Kuwait support disputed earlier reports from Kuwaiti doctors that Iraqi officials took babies from incubators so the equipment could be shipped to Iraq.

Amnesty International last year withdrew a report on the alleged atrocity because it could not find witnesses and had relied on hearsay evidence.

In addition, there was a controversy in the United States over similar allegations given anonymously to a Senate committee. The witness turned out to be the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the United States.

Critics threw doubt on the account and said it was designed to mobilize world opinion against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and muster support for military action after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.

But nurse Salwa Ali told Reuters that she saw eight babies mistreated and that most of them died despite efforts by nursing staff to save them.

She was interviewed after being sought out by reporters and given health ministry permission to speak publicly for the first time on what she had seen.

Kuwait also has hired a U.S. firm of private investigators, Kroll Associates, to examine the atrocity allegations. A report is due in March.

Ali said Iraqi officials and soldiers first came to her neonatal ward in late August or early September 1990, asking about the number of incubators and other types of equipment kept there. More returned and ordered her to "remove the babies from all the incubators." She refused. They told her to stand in the corner.

"The first baby they removed was in the ventilator. . . . They pulled the tubes and plaster from its face, took the baby out and gave it to me," she said.

"I took the baby. It started turning blue. . . . I tried to give it oxygen, but it died half an hour later," Ali added.

The Iraqis took about half the unit's 16 incubators _ the newest ones _ she said.

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