If the accounts written about Operation al-Anfal are to be believed (and I’m a believer), this must have been one freakin’ horror show.
Operation al-Anfal was the name given to Saddam Hussein’s attempt to wipe out the Kurds by any and all means possible.
The term “al-Anfal” itself has it references in the Koran. Apparently there is a chapter in the Koran that calls upon Muslim armies to repay or reward themselves for efforts undertaken in war against infidels. In this case, those infidels were the Kurds.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past couple of days, you’ve probably heard the name “Chemical Ali” being bandied about the news. It seems he is the cousin of all around nice guy, Saddam Hussein, who was put in charge of Operation al-Anfal way back in 1987 or so.
In April of that year, Saddam called upon his cousin to come up with an “ultimate solution” to the so-called Kurdish problem. At first he thought he could accomplish his goal by causing mass evacuations of the villages and towns that the Kurds called home. This was accomplished through your more traditional means such as torture and intimidation by Iraqi troops under his command. This tactic didn’t pose too much of a problem when dealing with your larger cities and towns but, hmm, how do we get to the smaller villages and such that were either inaccessible by road or just plain hard to get at?
In June of 1987, “Chemical Ali”, with Saddam’s blessing, gave the order that a zone be created that encompassed more than 1000 Kurdish villages. This zone was considered prohibited to all humans and animals. The punishment for being found in the area was death.
Probably the most famous attack during Operation al-Anfal occurred in 1988 at the village known as Halabja. In 1988, reports indicated that a resistance group had been found there that had to be dealt with. After your more traditional attacks such as bombing and artillery attacks softened up the enemy, Chemical Ali ordered the Iraqi Air Force to drop canisters of such nice things as mustard gas, sarin and VX nerve agents on the civilian population. When all was said and done, over 5000 men, women and children were killed and over 10, 000 wounded all in a single day. It represented the largest use of chemical weapons against a civilian population in history.
By the time Operation al-Anfal ended in April 1989, some ninety percent of the Kurdish villages had been obliterated, along with some 20 larger towns. To make sure they couldn’t return to their lands, Saddam then ordered the army to plant mines, to the tune of 15 million, throughout the prohibited area. The effectiveness of the campaign resulted in 1.5 million Kurds forced into refugee camps.
While the exact number of people killed will probably never be known, “Chemical Ali” was pissed about the Kurds claim that approximately. 182,000 persons were unaccounted for and feared dead. He put the number more in the ballpark of 100,000 or so. Nice guy huh?