A UK politician is adding his voice to calls for an independent public enquiry into why a British Airways flight was allowed to land in Kuwait a few hours after the start of the Gulf War.

Passengers and crew were held hostage for several weeks by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's  troops when the airport was attacked shortly after British Airways flight BA149 landed in Kuwait on 1 August 1990. The aircraft was destroyed in the attack.

Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat  MP for Lewes, in Sussex, says new evidence has been uncovered showing that  “a decision was taken to land the plane although it was known that Iraqi troops were close by, and that the capture of those on board was highly likely.”

Baker alleges that former prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major gave “incorrect and misleading” information to the House of Commons when they stated that the aircraft had landed before the invasion and that the situation could not have been foreseen.

“With 200,000 troops and tanks gathered on the border very close to Kuwait, and given the general background noise from Iraq at the time, I suggest that it was a reasonable assumption that there might well have been an invasion, even if there was no detailed intelligence to confirm that,” Baker told a House of Commons debate on Friday.

“The plane touched down, moreover, at a deserted airport. Every other flight from every other airline had been cancelled for hours, there were no staff, and the one or two individuals who were hanging around were considerably surprised when a plane touched down.”

Baker added that the idea that Britain was the only country in the world not to realise what was going on “stretches credibility”. He alleges that the aircraft, a British Airways Boeing 747 en route to Kuala Lumpur had in fact “landed to allow intelligence and special forces personnel belonging to a highly secretive section of MI6 called The INC, posing as passengers, to disembark in Kuwait.”

Baker said he had obtained signed affidavits from special forces members “to the effect that they were on that plane and were put there to carry out a mission at the request of the British government.”

Passengers on the aircraft have made repeated calls for an inquiry in the intervening years  . “It is not acceptable for those who have gone through so much to have everything swept under the carpet,” Baker said.

But his calls for an immediate investigation were rejected by minister for Europe and former defence secretary Geoff Hoon: “at this stage, because there is no new evidence before me, I am not prepared to launch an inquiry or to act on his request until I have had a further opportunity to consider matters in more detail.”

Link to the debate: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmtoday/cmdebate/12.htm#spkr_1

Link to BBC “on this day”:



Source: FlightGlobal.com