BBC Home
Explore the BBC
Witness  
Search ON THIS DAY by date
 
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
About This Site | Text Only
1981: 'All hell broke out'
British ex-patriate Duncan Kirby was a 21-year-old quantity surveyor working in Iraq when the Israelis bombed the unfinished nuclear reactor in Baghdad.

He sent this account to BBC On This Day about an event that shocked the world.

I was working in Baghdad at the time on the Baghdad University which was the other side of the Tigris river.

We were used to bombing raids because the Iraq-Iran war was on at the time, but we always got an air raid warning and anti-aircraft fire would go up before the planes arrived.

This was very different.

It was evening and I was actually having a swim when I heard this loud explosion and saw smoke rising from the other side of the river.

Then all hell broke out as every gun in the city fired off, but of course it was too late.

The planes were already on their way back.

We learnt afterwards that the planes had flown in over Saudi territory and that's why there had been no warning.

I was also surprised at Menachem Begin's comment that they attacked on Sunday to ensure that no foreigners would be hurt.

In Baghdad, as far as I was aware, we all worked Iraqi hours - Friday was the only day off.
Duncan Kirby, Cyprus


Other comments. The following reflects the balance of opinion we have received so far.

I was a teenager living in Dhahran [Saudi Arabia] and I woke up to the afternoon news of the UPI.

They were stating that Israeli bombers had bombed an Iraqi nuclear site earlier that morning.

I can remember being in awe that the Israelis could swoop in, destroy a facility, and return without so much as a single casualty.

For it was not so many years before that we Americans, under Carter, had tried to rescue hostages from Iran - regretfully, only to have the helicopters fail in the desert.
Bruce Burgner, USA

At the time I admired the Israelis for having the courage to do what had to be done to protect themselves.
Neil Schroeder, UK

I heard about bombing of the Iraqui reactor by Israel, and I thought, "Thank God that that short, bookish old man has the guts to do such a courageous act."

The people of the world need to minimise the potential for development of atomic weapons.

Begin, a man despised by the media of the world, in my eyes was a true hero.
Zenek Wrobel, Poland

I remember the usual hostile world condemnations against Israel, after the destruction of the reactor.

The world continues to act with hypocrisy against Israel even today.
Sami, USA

I remember being a school boy in India and admiring Israel for its remarkable ability to act in national self interest.
Anish Mehta, USA

I remember thinking how odd that Israel must go to such lengths to protect itself, whereas most other (developed) countries belong to regional trade and defence blocs.
David White, UK

Given Iraq's war on Iran, having left Iraq with nuclear capacity would have been foolish, something that I realised even then.

When Israel bombed that reactor I was thrilled and greatly relieved that the potential for nuclear devastation was no longer in Saddam Hussein's hands.
Freda Saul, USA

I remember listening to this story on my way to school and thinking, "The guys who are at war with Iran had a nuclear reactor? I am so glad they don't anymore!"
Inna Tysoe, USA

 E-mail this story to a friend


Israeli F-16s
Israeli fighter jets, like those pictured, destroyed the Osirak reactor in Iraq


Duncan Kirby
Duncan Kirby, now based in Cyprus, witnessed the Baghdad air raid

Witness Stories


 
Search ON THIS DAY by date
 

^^ back to top
Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
©MMVIII | News Sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy