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Eyewitness: Halabja gas attack

16 March 03 16:50 GMT

On 16 March 1988, Saddam Hussein's forces dropped mustard gas, nerve agents and other chemical weapons on the mainly Kurdish town of Halabja.

Dana Nazif's mother and four-year-old sister were among the 5,000 people who died in a single day in what was the worst ever chemical attack on a civilian population.

Just a teenager, Dana fled to Iran three days after the attack, the effects of which are still being felt in Halabja where the population suffers high rates of cancers, miscarriages and genetic abnormalities.

"I was 15 years old when the attack happened. There had been shelling for three days so the schools were closed.

"I fell unconscious when the bombardment started.

"Most people were in shelters and underground bunkers. When they realised it was a chemical attack they tried to get out, but most of them died in their shelters.

"A bomb fell here - in this small area, between 250 and 300 people died. In my own family my mother, brother and two of my sisters died. In all, I lost 35 relatives.

"It's impossible to forget what happened to us - especially at a time like this, on the anniversary of the event.

"Because of what happened here, everyone is frightened at the prospect of war. They fear a chemical attack could happen again.

"Even in other cities like Sulaymaniyah they are preparing themselves for something terrible. They've only heard about Halabja - they didn't experience it directly - but they're preparing themselves for a similar situation.

"I don't think anyone in Iraq likes Saddam Hussein. Everyone will be happy if he's overthrown.

I think it will be a good thing if Saddam Hussein's regime is targeted.

I hope, though, that the people of Iraq aren't attacked. That happened in the past and we don't want it to happen again.

"The Kurds have already suffered enough because of Saddam Hussein."

As told to BBC News Online's Stuart Hughes

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