United States marines and army rangers have invaded the Caribbean island of Grenada, seized the country’s two airports and taken Cuban and Soviet prisoners.
The action, which has shocked the world, was ordered by President Ronald Reagan following a bloody coup by Cuban-trained military who executed Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, and at least 13 of his associates.
Backed by helicopter gunships, 1,900 US troops were airlifted to Pearls airport in the north of the island at dawn. They were followed a few hours later by 300 soldiers from six other Caribbean countries.
The invasion of this former British colony has angered British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who spoke with President Reagan last night to try to dissuade him from military action.
But the Pentagon has expressed a “sense of outrage” that she refused to participate in the invasion despite America’s support during the Falklands conflict last year.
The US Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, said three US soldiers were killed as they fought members of a Cuban work force building a runway at Point Salinas Airport.
Other US officials said 30 Soviet advisers and 600 Cubans had been arrested. The Caribbean Broadcasting Corp owned by the Barbados government reported four Cubans dead.
President Reagan announced the attack at a news conference in the White House four hours after his troops had landed.
At his side was the prime minister of Dominica, Eugenia Charles, who is also chair of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
The president said the US had taken military action after an appeal by the OECS, Jamaica and Barbados who were worried about the security of the region following last week’s coup.
He also wanted to ensure the safety of a thousand Americans living in Grenada, including about 600 students and teachers at St George’s University medical school.
Grenada gained its independence in 1974 and five years later there was a popular revolution led by the New Jewel Movement which brought the charismatic Marxist leader, Maurice Bishop, to power.
The coup leaders – Hudson Austin and Bernard Coard, Mr Bishop’s former deputy – objected to the prime minister’s policy of developing closer ties with the United States.
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