RAGHWA, SAUDI ARABIA, AUG. 24 -- Kuwaitis battling the Iraqi troops occupying their country have organized a corps of desert pathfinders who lead refugees in auto caravans from Kuwait City through a maze of sand-blown tracks to the Saudi Arabian border and freedom.
Western correspondents who were taken to this border post today interviewed Kuwaiti families who had just arrived from the occupied capital in three cars with the help of a 33-year-old Kuwaiti guide.
The guide, who refused to give his name, said he was an unpaid "volunteer" and had made repeated trips back and forth showing Kuwaitis how to get through the desert. He was tight-lipped about his methods but said the roughly 80-mile trip could be made in about four hours.
He said no Iraqi troops had shot at his convoy today but on other trips they had done so. He would continue, he said, to make the run back and forth. Today's convoy had originally comprised four cars, but one had to be abandoned because of a flat tire.
The Kuwaiti guide said Iraqi troops were combing the streets of Kuwait City today looking for foreigners to arrest. "If they catch any foreigners, they take them away. It's getting tough for them," he said.
He confirmed reports that foreign embassies were surrounded by Iraqi troops but said that had been true for many of them since the Aug. 2 invasion.
Today's new arrivals reported that there was still plenty of food, water and electricity in Kuwait City. They said Iraqi civilians had begun trying to sell food -- some of it from Iraq -- along the city roads, but Kuwaitis were refusing to buy it.
"We have enough food supplies in the city for a year," said one refugee.
How the Kuwaiti underground has organized its escape route system is being kept secret. But there appears to be a number of "volunteers" engaged exclusively in shuttling Kuwaitis in and out of their country.
Edward F. Daly, an American horticulturist who came out of Kuwait earlier this week, said his guide had made 18 trips before helping Daly escape.
The desert here, six miles west of the main border crossing point at Khafji, is strewn with abandoned Kuwaiti cars and debris left by fleeing refugees. The Saudis have set up a reception center, put ambulances on standby and stationed several cars out a mile from this post, within about a half-mile of the borderline, to help the refugees as they reach the end of their harrowing desert trips.
More than 100,000 Kuwaiti refugees and tens of thousands of other foreigners have made their way out of Kuwait south to the Saudi border.
There seemed to be fewer refugees coming in today than there were a week ago. The border post at Khafji, where hundreds of Egyptians, Pakistanis, Afghans and Filipinos milled about a week ago, was almost deserted, and only four cars arrived while reporters were at Raghwa for a hour.
For many television and newspaper reporters and photographers visiting the border for the first time, the four-hour trip from Dhahran was a disappointment. Though Iraqi troops and a few tanks were reportedly deployed a mile north of the Khafji border crossing, none could be seen, leaving television reporters to shoot footage of the border fence or a Saudi army jeep mounted with a machine gun.
At Raghwa, the scenery was better: a crenelated, fortress-like building that looked like the set of a French Foreign Legion film, and a dozen or so Saudi troops guarding it. But there were still no tanks or armor to provide frustrated television reporters with a wartime backdrop for their reports.
Along the main north-south highway from Khafji to Dhahran, few Saudi troops or armor could be seen within 25 miles of the Kuwaiti border. The Iraqis have kept their forces a similar distance north of the border, according to Saudi military sources.