British officials failed to pass on a warning about Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait that could have averted the capture of passengers and crew on a British Airways flight by Iraqi troops, the Government has admitted.
Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, on Tuesday apologized to Parliament for the "unacceptable" failure to previously disclose the phone call by Britain’s ambassador to Kuwait that was revealed in newly released foreign office files.
She insisted there was no new evidence to back allegations that flight BA 149 was used to insert British special forces into the country following the Iraqi invasion in August 1990, despite repeated claims to the contrary by former hostages.
The aircraft was destroyed on the tarmac of Kuwait International Airport sometime before the end of the war. It is thought fleeing Iraqi forces blew up the British Airways jet.
Newly released foreign office files show that Sir Michael Weston, Britain’s ambassador to Kuwait, telephoned London to alert the foreign office about an Iraqi military incursion around midnight GMT on August 2, more than an hour before BA 149 landed at 1.13am.
Barry Manners, 54, a former passenger who was kept hostage by Iraqi soldiers for four-and-a-half months, has accused the Government of lying and refused to accept their apology.
He told the PA news agency: "It’s a lie. I’m gobsmacked they are still saying this. The evidence must be so refutable.
"If the Government was using British Airways as de facto military transport, come clean and admit it."
Barry Manners, who was 24 when he was held hostage in Iraq after BA flight 149 landed in Kuwait
Credit: Barry Manners
BA 149 from London to Kuala Lumpur landed in Kuwait in the early hours of August 2 1990, as Iraqi forces overran the country. The aircraft was refused permission to leave and more than 300 passengers and crew were taken hostage by the Iraqi military.
The hostages were imprisoned at various sites around Iraq and Kuwait, where they were used as human shields. The last of the hostages were released five months later, in December 1990.
Mr Manners added: "I live in the real world, I’m not a snowflake – if they pulled us into a room and said: ‘Terribly sorry, we had to do it, have a year off paying income tax and here’s a gold card for British Airways, keep your gob shut’, I would say ‘fair enough’.
"But when people lie to me, then I get upset. So, no, I don’t accept the apology. It’s a fudge.
“Who on earth were they, then? Members of a rugby team? I know they were soldiers.”
A British Airways spokesman said: "Our hearts go out to all those caught up in this shocking act of war just over 30 years ago and who had to endure a truly horrendous experience.
"These records confirm British Airways was not warned about the invasion.”