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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Iraq fears Allied bombs caused cancer
Basra Hospital cancer ward
Doctors blame depleted uranium from Allied weapons
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By the BBC's Rageh Omaar
In southern Iraq

Iraqi doctors claim that the use of weapons containing depleted uranium by British and American forces during the Gulf War is causing an "epidemic of cancer".

Allied forces have admitted using hundreds of tonnes of shells tipped with depleted uranium against Iraqi forces in the south of the country.

But they have denied that the weapons have caused high cancer rates.

Iraqi health officials say the town of Basra has suffered a dramatic rise in cancer and birth defects since 1991.

Ten-year-old Noor is suffering from cancer
Every day the anxious faces of children and their parents line the corridors of the cancer wards of the main hospital in Basra, southern Iraq.

Ten-year-old Noor has come for a check-up and her medication.

Tumours are spreading to different parts of her body, she is constantly tired and has had to leave school.

"It's the Gulf War that caused it," her mother says.

"We have no history of cancer in our family. We live in an area that was heavily bombed during the war and my daughter was born a year later."

Iraqi man clambers over wreckage of tank
Wreckage from the Gulf War still litters the former battlefields
Doctors say whole areas of southern Iraq have been contaminated.

It is not just Iraqi civilians who feel that they have been infected.

British veterans have the same fears too.

The former battlefields in this area of southern Iraq are littered with the remains of Iraqi tanks destroyed by British and American forces using weapons with depleted uranium.

Rising toll

Eleven years later, doctors in this area say people are continuing to die as a result of the use of those weapons.

Ill-equipped hospitals are having to deal with multiple forms of cancer.

There are numerous cases of four different types within the same family and there is even an increasing number of teenage girls with breast cancer.

Basra Hospital cancer surgeon Jawad al-Ali says: "I had not seen tumours, they're very rare, but now it's what I could call an epidemic of cancer."

The British military is now re-examining the implications of using depleted uranium in future conflicts because of the possible consequences on its own troops.

But many Iraqis say they are already living with those consequences.

The BBC's Rageh Omar
"Allied forces used depleted uranium missiles"

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See also:

15 Jan 01 | Middle East
Iraqi alarm over DU ammunition
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