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Struggle for Iraq
Click on the events below to read about Iraq's history
Saddam's rise:
Iran-Iraq war:
Gulf War:
1990 - 1991
Second war:
Young activist
Hardline deputy
War breaks out
Israeli bombing
Chemical warfare
Western support
Truce and debt
Kuwait invasion
Desert Storm
Scud missiles
Civilian casualties
Ground war
Iraqi ceasefire
After the war
No-fly zones
Desert Fox
Inspectors barred
US-led invasion
Saddam captured
Iraq in turmoil
Trial of Saddam

A legacy of the 1991 Gulf War was one of the world's worst ever environmental disasters.

As the allies bombed Iraq, Saddam Hussein's occupying forces opened the taps of Kuwait's oil wells, spewing some eight million barrels of oil into the Gulf.

The Iraqis also set fire to at least 600 oil wells, creating a huge black cloud of smoke over Kuwait.

It took teams led by the oil industry fire expert Red Adair at least six months to put out the blazes and cap the wells.

And 320 "oil lakes" were left in the desert, which took much of the following decade to clean up. Sea birds, coral reefs and rare turtles were all casualties.

Kuwaiti doctors also suspect the choking pall of smoke of causing a significant rise in cancers, heart disease and respiratory problems.

In Iraq, concerns have been raised about the pollution caused by the allied forces' use of ammunition and shells enhanced with depleted uranium.

Iraq claims that the radioactive dust left behind when these explode has caused a nine-fold increase in cancer near the southern city of Basra.

Some Gulf War veterans blame DU for illnesses they have suffered since returning from the Gulf.

These claims have not been proven, but even if the radioactivity is not to blame, depleted uranium is a highly toxic heavy metal and has left a legacy of pollution.

A burnt-out tank in front of burning oil wells in Kuwait
The post-war clean-up took a decade

An oil covered bird after the 1991 Gulf War

Pollution hit sea wildlife severely

Former soldier Shaun Rusling, National Gulf Veterans and Families Association

Veteran Shaun Rusling has led
the fight for recognition of "Gulf
War Syndrome" in the UK

"I feel extremely bitter"
Gulf War veteran Tim Pitman talks to the BBC's Jane Standley


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