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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April, 2004, 22:11 GMT 23:11 UK
Fears grow for relatives in Iraq
Briton Gary Teeley was taken hostage in Iraq
With British-controlled Basra now the target of bomb attacks, the torment increases for those with friends and relatives living and working in Iraq.

Many live in daily fear that their loved ones may be killed, injured, or taken hostage in the escalating cycle of violence.

One mother from Blackwood in Gwent, who did not want to be named, has a 23-year-old son who has been serving as a soldier in Iraq for nearly six months.

She told BBC News Online: "I, like so many parents, brothers, sisters, am constantly worrying about their safety.

I am worried, but I think we are right to remain there
Soldier's mother

"I am able to keep in touch with him via e-mail and we can phone him. But I just have to keep waiting for news - when he phones, then I know he's OK.

"It is distressing for most of the parents because we really don't know what's happening over there or who the enemy is. I don't think my son really knows himself.

"I'm worried about whether he's got the right equipment. My son hasn't said anything about it but it makes you wonder, what with all the cutbacks."

The constant media coverage of the events in Iraq makes it even more difficult for Mandy and her family to cope with her son's absence.

She said: "His sister worries because there is so much media coverage. She is only 15 and I think it makes it worse for her seeing it on TV every night.

'Worrying' media coverage

"I am a bit sceptical about whether they are making any progress out there though I know they are doing their best."

But despite her fears, Mandy believes British forces should stay the course in Iraq.

"I think we are right to remain there, if we pull out now it will lead to blood-shed. But I think the UN would be best off going in."

There is a lot of tension and the biggest problem is the abductions
Ammar Al-Allak
Ammar Al-Allak is an Iraqi-born IT developer living in Britain since 1991.

He fears for the safety of members of his family living in Basra and in US-controlled Kut, south-east of Baghdad.

He told BBC News Online: "There is a lot of tension and the biggest problem is the abductions.

"A couple of guys from my family were abducted, The family gathered together and decided to refuse to pay the ransom.

"They gave the abductors an ultimatum and eventually they handed them back. But now it's happened again and they have got two more of them."

Explosion scene
British soldiers were hurt in the Basra bombings

Andrew Desborough runs a course for would-be Army recruits at Pembrokeshire College.

He has 12 former students serving in Basra, most of them are serving in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, which had four soldiers injured in Wednesday's bomb attacks in Basra.

He told BBC News Online: "Most of them have only just turned 18. We had no idea they would be called on to put their training into practice so soon.

"The last lot left here in August, they had 24 weeks basic training and infantry training at Catterick, then went to join their battalion in Aldershot.

Worst 'yet to come'

"They were there a few weeks then as soon as they turned 18 they were on the first flight out to Iraq.

"I do wonder if all their training will prepare them for what they will find out there. After all they do are not even sure who the enemy is."

I'm on tenterhooks every time I watch the news
Rupert Eden

Travel writer Rupert Eden has several friends in their early and mid-20s serving as Army officers in Basra.

He told BBC News Online: "The worst is yet to come in Iraq from what I've heard from friends who are out there.

"It is horrifying. Just today there were bombings around Basra, some British troops were injured. I don't know who they were - they could be friends of mine.

"I'm on tenterhooks every time I watch the news. I almost feel guilty because I'm not there."




SEE ALSO:
UK soldiers among Basra injured
21 Apr 04  |  Middle East
Scores killed in Iraqi bombings
21 Apr 04  |  Middle East
Freed Iraq hostage returns home
14 Apr 04  |  London
Timeline: Hostages in Iraq
16 Apr 04  |  Middle East



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