7th June 1981 was like any other day in Iraq; though a Sunday it was working day since Fridays were the weekly off. As usual the site activities started off at 6.30 am and as we were still mobilizing staff and manpower for the projects the current works involved setting up of labor camps, staff camp and excavation works for foundations of permanent buildings of the township just off Al Baaya, Baghdad. As we were going about our works we saw few jet fighters flying in the sky and it was not unusual as there was a war taking with Iran and it was quite common to see them in air. As there were no air raid warnings there was nothing to worry or take any actions that was told to us in the event of air raid.
Just in about half hour there were loud firing noise and anti-aircraft guns firing in the air from all parts of Baghdad and the air raid warning sirens sounding loudly in all localities of Baghdad. We engineer’s working in the field just dumped everything and was scampering to safety of the trench but in sheer fright all of us just went below a porta cabin. After about 20 minutes all clear sounded and we crawled out of the space and only then we realized that we were fools that we crawled beneath a wooden cabin which would not have given any protection against bombs. Read the earlier post where I have mentioned this incident under .Jinxed June
It was much later in the week that we came to know of the reasons for the air raid warning on 7th June… it was an air strike by Israelis air force on the Al-Tuwaitha nuclear facility was being built on the outskirts of Baghdad about 17kms southeast of Baghdad. I did not give a thought about this incident till I wrote about it in my blog couple of years back. Few days back while browsing the internet I came across declassified report on this bombing by Israelis and I was surprised to note that the Israeli’s have been trying to stop the construction of this reactor for over 3 years as they were worried that Iraq would build a nuclear device. Their secret services tried various means to delay or destroy the same but were unsuccessful. Then in 1981 Saddam Hussein in an Arab meet proclaimed that the nuclear reactor was going to go critical in a month or so and then he would build an Islamic bomb to be dropped on Tel Aviv.
|Route taken by Israeli Air force Image Courtesy- Google|
This statement triggered the final go ahead for the air strike for which the Israelis air force had been training for over 10 months and was code named Operation Opera or Operation Baghdad. Eight F16’s took off from Israel avoided Jordan and flew at 100 feet above ground over Saudi Arabia and then entered Iraq to complete the bombing mission and finally went back to Israel safe. This daring strike took the world by total surprise and all countries decried and condemned the bombing since the reactor could not have developed nuclear bomb. Israeli’s however maintained that this strike was in self-defense of their country since Saddam Hussein was known to hate Israel and had threatened bombing Tel Aviv with nuclear device.
Well you can read about the planning details and routes taken by the fighter pilots on Google or even watch the same on You tube so I am not repeating it here. These moments have been etched in my memories and it keeps flooding back now and then whenever I read or hear about Iraq.