By VANESSA ARRINGTON, AP
HAVANA (Dec. 19) - Cubans awoke to air raid sirens Sunday and
practiced shooting, putting on gas masks and doing duck-and-
cover drills as the communist nation wrapped up a week of
preparation after Fidel Castro's government has warned
against possible attacks from the United States.
The activities, called the Strategic Bastion 2004 Exercise,
were intended as an evaluation of how prepared Cuba is to
face military attack during President Bush's second term.
State-run newspapers reported Sunday that the exercises were
a success and that Cuba's ''capacity to resist and overcome
an imperialist aggression'' was demonstrated.
Since even before the United States launched its unilateral
attack on Iraq last year, Cuba has insisted that a similar
U.S. strike is possible.
''The risks of (U.S.) aggression are real,'' President Fidel
Castro said Sunday on Cuban television.
American authorities have repeatedly rejected that idea,
saying there are no plans to attack Cuba. Last week, the U.S.
State Department said the large-scale exercises in Cuba were
held to distract people from the hardships of their lives.
Cuban army troops, reserves and militia spent the week firing
rockets, launching grenades and practicing drills with
civilians. Soldiers put up barricades in Havana neighborhoods
as fighter jets flew overhead.
Thousands of Cubans took to the streets, taking their
prearranged places under the doctrine of ''The Peoples'
War,'' in which every citizen, young and old, participates in
the defense of the country.
Children were sent to schools early Sunday to practice duck-
and-cover drills. Civilians practiced shooting, conducted
first aid and gas masks drills.
Work groups gathered to discuss how to guarantee food, water
and health care for the population in the event of an attack,
as well as to plan evacuations, arrange security and set up a
system for communicating with civilians.
State media reported that a total of four million Cubans
participated in the drills, the biggest of their kind in 18
Cubans from defense organizations that include much of the
general population participated as did defense forces of the
Interior Ministry, which oversees internal security.
Defense Minister Raul Castro, who oversaw the operation,
toured several sites to motivate participants.
''There are Cubans of every color, making up a precious
rainbow, but all have the same language, purpose, ideal: that
unity is our most powerful weapon,'' Castro told civilians in
Havana, according to Sunday's edition of Juventud Rebelde,
the Communist Party's youth newspaper.