The U.S. ambassador to Kuwait flew back to the United States Friday with about 50 American and other foreign hostages he led out of the deepening Persian Gulf crisis.
The U.S. military C-5 transport plane headed back to the United States with 33 Americans and non-U.S. citizen family members, as well as 15 people going to Canada, according to U.S. consulate spokesman Craig Springer.All had come from Iraq or occupied Kuwait on Thursday.
Ambassador Nathaniel Howell, who spent three months defying Iraqi orders to vacate the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait after Baghdad invaded the emirate in August, refused to talk to reporters as he left his hotel Friday morning.
Former hostages who would talk to reporters were very bitter about their experiences and accused Iraq of a host of atrocities.
Howell and a planeload of Americans and other former hostages flew in to Frankfurt from Baghdad late Thursday night on a U.S.-chartered Iraqi jet.
"We're very happy to be here," Howell said after arriving. "We're delighted that Americans who wanted to leave did."
U.S. consulate officials said 94 people were aboard the Iraqi airliner. Craig Springer, a spokesman for the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt, said 31 of them were Americans, including Howell and his bare-bones embassy staff.
Springer said the Americans who were not aboard the C-5 Friday have chosen to return home independently.
"This morning I closed the embassy," Howell told a horde of waiting reporters after arriving Thursday night. But he then caught himself, saying, "I did not close the embassy, but I vacated it. The flag flies."
He would not comment on whether there were any Kuwaiti nationals left to watch the embassy compound.
Howell declined to speak at length, explaining that "we haven't had electricity and water, hot water, at night for 110 days. So, we're going to take advantage of that."
Iraq's government of President Saddam Hussein ordered all foreign missions in Kuwait to close Aug. 24, and those that defied the order had services cut off by authorities who took over the emirate after the Aug. 2 invasion.