Kuwaiti refugee says she lived in terror of soldiers

MORRISVILLE, N.C. -- A Kuwaiti woman aboard the latest -- and perhaps last -- freedom flight from the mideast said Friday she lived in terror of Iraqi troops during the final days before her release.

'I was terrified,' said the woman who would not give her name because her husband remains in the mideast. 'There were Iraqi troops everywhere.'

She was among 257 refugees who arrived Friday at Raleigh-Durham International on a flight orginating in Baghdad. Officials said the flight was delayed Wednesday night while Iraqi authorities interrogated passengers.

The woman said after she fled Kuwait and went to Iraq she remained indoors most of the time to avoid Iraqi troops. 'I was afraid of what the troops would do, so I avoided them,' she said.

As she described her flight, her children were being entertained by Harold Maxwell, a Raleigh magician who volunteered to work in the airport terminal's repatriation center.

Maxwell twisted balloons into the shape of toys for about two dozen of the 103 children on the flight while their parents cleared immigration.

'This is great,' Maxwell said as two of the children battled with sword-shaped balloons. 'It relieves the stress from being cooped up on the long flight.'

The flight was comprised of 154 men and women and the 103 children, 24 of whom were infants, state officials said.

Aprroximately half the passengers were U.S. citizens, state officials said. Seven were Canadian citizens.

Two of the children were unaccompanied, officials said, but were met by their mother, a U.S. citizen from Chicago who left Kuwait the day before Iraq's invasion.

The mother, identified only by her first name as Connie, said by way of a North Carolina official that the U.S. government should 'have already sent the Marines in before all this got started.'

'She said, 'It is insane to let this man (Saddam Hussein) get away with this,'' said Joe Dean, state crime control secretary.

Her husband, identified as a Kuwaiti senior oil engineer, was forced to remain behind.

Dean predicted the latest flight, the fourth to arrive in North Carolina and the tenth flight since the Aug. 2 invasion, would be the last.

'The State Department told us the previous flight would be the last before this flight arrived,' Dean said.

The latest repatriation effort taxed the staff of the state Department Crime Control and Public Safety.

As staff members worked with the repatriates, other state workers braced for the possible arrival of Tropical Storm Lilli on the state's barrier islands and coped with flooding in the western part of the state caused by two other storm systems.

'We're doing the job,' Dean said.

He said the influx of refugees was taxing the state Department of Human Resources.