By Gavin Cordon | standard.co.uk
A warning that Iraqi forces had entered Kuwait was not passed on to British Airways even though it had a flight heading to the Gulf state, the Foreign Office has disclosed.
Flight BA149 with 367 passengers on board landed in Kuwait in the early hours of August 2 1990, and the passengers and crew were detained by the invading Iraqi forces and held hostage for up to five months.
In a Commons written ministerial statement, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said files being released to the National Archives show that British ambassador Sir Michael Weston warned the Foreign Office around midnight that an Iraqi incursion was under way as the flight was en route.
“The information was passed by the resident clerk to the head of the FCO’s Middle East Department and also to No 10, the Ministry of Defence, Cabinet Office and the Secret Intelligence Service, but not to British Airways,” Ms Truss said.
“The call made by HMA Kuwait has never been publicly disclosed or acknowledged until today. These files show that the existence of the call was not revealed to Parliament and the public.
“This failure was unacceptable. As the current Secretary of State, I apologise to the House for this, and I express my deepest sympathy to those who were detained and mistreated.”
There has long been speculation that the flight was allowed to continue to Kuwait, even though other flights were being diverted, because it was being used to carry a group of Special Forces into the country.
But, in her statement, Ms Truss said the files were consistent with a statement by ministers in 2007 that “the Government at the time did not attempt in any way to exploit the flight by any means whatever”.