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Mon, Apr 14, 2003

First Aussie Plane In To Baghdad Full Of Aid

Operation Baghdad Assist Is Underway

A RAAF C-130 Hercules transport delivered almost seven tonnes of urgently needed medical supplies to Baghdad hospitals over the weekend as Australia responded to the growing threat of a massive humanitarian crisis in Iraq.

Another two Sydney-based C-130s, loaded with medicines and basic hospital equipment are expected to reach Iraq within days as part of Operation Baghdad Assist.

Security Team On Board

The supplies delivered over the weekend were flown by helicopters from HMAS Kanimbla in the Persian Gulf. They included donations from United States forces and the Kuwaiti government. The plane that delivered it with a security team of commandos was the first Australian aircraft to touch down at Baghdad International Airport since it was captured by coalition forces earlier this month.

Australian Defense Minister Robert Hill said the Sydney government would take stock of Iraq's urgent medical needs over the next few days and decide then what to send in future shipments.

"We're told the hospitals are functioning - not easily - but functioning with sufficient medical staff," Senator Hill said. "What they needed badly was further medical supplies so we're meeting that need."

There have been reports that entire operating rooms have been dismantled, that armed looters are taking everything they can unbolt from local hospitals. Some patients are leaving. Others are reportedly being left unattended in their hospital beds. Iraqi nurses were reportedly arming themselves with rifles to prevent further looting. But Senator Hill said he's confident that Australian aid would get through to the people who need it most. Hill said there were signs order was being restored in Iraq as coalition forces began to enforce discipline.

FMI: www.centcom.mil

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