Iraqi Soldiers Defect on Kuwaiti Border

As many as 17 Iraqi soldiers surrendered at the Kuwaiti border Wednesday, hours before a U.S. deadline for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to leave the country or face war.

U.S. military and Kuwaiti officials confirmed that the captives had surrendered around nightfall and were in the custody of Kuwait authorities.

However, there was confusion about how many gave themselves up.

Capt. Darren Theriault, commander of the headquarters company of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, told journalists attached to the unit that 15 Iraqis had been taken prisoner.

A Kuwaiti official who declined to be identified said that the Iraqis had surrendered to the Kuwaiti military and numbered only three or four.

Jim Wilkinson, director of strategic communications for the U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, said he understood there were two separate surrenders -- one with 15 Iraqi solders and the other with two.

The two Iraqis gave themselves up at Abdali, in Kuwait, and were in custody of Kuwaiti officials, a U.S. military source said. The 15 Iraqi soldiers gave themselves up to Kuwaiti police and were taken into custody, the source said.

The desert is a swarm of military activity as U.S. troops and British troops move closer in anticipation of invading.

The U.S. military has encouraged Iraqi soldiers to surrender rather than risk annihilation fighting to defend Saddam. The Americans expect mass surrenders in case of an invasion.