Baghdad Claims Hit on ‘Enemy’ Warplane in Northern Iraq
Iraqi anti-aircraft defenses have hit an "enemy" US or British plane conducting raids over northern Iraq, an Iraqi military spokesman said Wednesday.
"Allied" warplanes routinely patrol the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, without UN permission, ostensibly to prevent Iraqi attacks on Kurdish and Shiite minorities.
Iraq's anti-aircraft defenses "repulsed the enemy aircraft, which were raiding the Dohuk, Erbil and Niniv provinces," AFP quoted him as saying.
"Indications are that one of the planes was hit," he added.
Baghdad has often claimed to have shot down or hit US and British warplanes, claims denied by London and Washington.
On Tuesday, US and British jets launched a new air raid on what a Pentagon spokesman was described as a surface-to-air missile site in southern Iraq.
The strikes targeted the site, and its associated radar system, close to An Nasiriwah, some 280 kilometres southeast of Baghdad, US officials said.
"The target was something that has been used by the Iraqis to threaten and fire at coalition aircraft," he said.
Last Friday, about 20 US warplanes struck three air-defense sites in southern Iraq, in response to recent anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missile fire at coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone, according to the Pentagon.
One person was killed and 11 were wounded by the strike, according to Baghdad.
Three days earlier on August 7, US forces ended a three-week lull in the strikes, launching the first one since July 17.
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged recently that Iraq had "quantitatively and qualitatively" improved its air defenses since a major strike February 16.
US President George W. Bush last month said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a global "menace" who must reopen his nation to UN arms inspectors.
Iraq has recently made efforts to target US reconnaissance aircraft and has reiterated it will continue to challenge US-British overflights of its territory.
On July 19, a US Navy E-2 Hawkeye radar surveillance plane reported that an Iraqi surface-to-air missile exploded near it inside Kuwaiti airspace, Pentagon officials said at the time.
An Iraqi surface-to-air missile nearly hit a high-flying U-2 spy plane over southern Iraq July 24, they said.
But Iraq later denied the claim, saying it hit an F-15.
That was followed a week later by a sighting of an Iraqi surface-to-air missile in Saudi airspace, which was reported by the pilot of a US AWACS radar surveillance plane but discounted by Pentagon officials.
The reported actions have come amid a debate within the US administration over its Iraq strategy, including the policy of aggressively enforcing the no-fly zones to contain Iraq.
The United States and Britain have patrolled "no-fly zones" in northern and southern Iraq since the 1990-91 Gulf War.
Some 354 people have been killed and 1,000 others injured since 1998 in the strikes, according to Baghdad – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)