Bahrain to get 5-minute missile warning

Monday, March 3, 2003

ABU DHABI Bahrain expects to obtain a five-minute warning prior to an Iraqi missile attack.

Bahraini officials said the kingdom has been assured that the United States will notify Manama of any Iraqi missiles launched toward the Gulf Cooperation Council. In 1991, an Iraqi missile landed in a remote area of Bahrain, Middle East Newsline reported.

"It is difficult to say how much time we will have," Bahraini Civil Defense and Fire Services chief Colonel James Windsor said. "It depends on where the missile is coming from and its speed. But I am anticipating in excess of five minutes warning."

Bahrain hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is expected to play a major role in any attack on the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The kingdom has also sent troops, warships and other platforms to Kuwait for its defense against any Iraqi attack.

On Sunday, Bahrain tested its civil defense system for the first time since the Gulf war in 1991. Twenty-two sirens were sounded in a drill that lasted 15 minutes and meant to simulate a warning for any Iraqi missile attack. Another test is expected later this month.

Bahraini newspapers reported on Monday that many people did not hear the sirens during Sunday's exercise. They said some of the sirens were deemed as faulty.

Officials said the civil defense system is operated from a control room with links to installations around the country. The system, improved since the 1991 Gulf war, is linked to U.S. Central Command, which is meant to relay a warning of any Iraqi missile launched toward Bahrain.

"This system is now controlled electronically," a civil defense spokesman said. "Last time each siren had to be sounded individually. We would have to telephone each station and tell them to push the button. "This time it is different. All 22 sirens can be operated from our control room."

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