Baghdad: One Killed, 11 Wounded in US-British Air Raids
One Iraqi was killed and 11 others injured Friday when US and British planes bombed southern Iraqi positions, said an Iraqi military spokesman cited by reports.
"The enemy planes, coming from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, bombarded civilian and service installations in the provinces of Zi Qar and Wasser, killing one Iraqi citizen and wounding 11 others," the spokesman said, quoted by the official INA agency.
The spokesman also said other planes came from Turkey and attacked air defense systems in the north, adding that Iraqi troops fired at the planes with anti-aircraft fire and ground-to-air missiles both times.
US Pentagon officials earlier said that about 50 aircraft, including nearly 20 fighter planes, launched the attack on Iraqi air defense installations in response to recent attacks on coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zone over southern Iraq.
All coalition aircraft returned safely to their bases, they said, cited by AFP.
On Wednesday, Iraq said that its anti-aircraft defenses might have hit a US or British warplane conducting raids over northern Iraq, but officials of both countries denied any aircraft were damaged.
"One of the crows (US or British planes) may have been hit" by Iraqi missiles, an Iraqi military spokesman said, adding that the jets "were forced to flee to their bases in Turkey."
“Our heroic anti-aircraft missile units confronted the enemy warplanes and forced them to leave our skies for Turkey," the Iraqi official said.
But Maj. Scott Vadnais, a US Air Force spokesman in Incirlik, Turkey, called the claim "totally false."
Vadnais told the Associated Press that allied planes came under Iraqi fire while patrolling the no-fly zone, but did not return fire.
"It is not a bombing mission as long as we conduct the patrolling (and) we don't fire back," he said.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman and the British Ministry of Defense also said no US or British planes had been hit, said AP.
Over the last three years, Iraq has occasionally claimed to have hit a patrolling plane, but so far, no downing has been confirmed.
The Iraqi claims came only hours after President Saddam Hussein warned that Iraq would hit back in retaliation for US and British attacks, and called for Washington and London to pull their forces out of the Gulf.
"The people of Iraq and their command will not stand idle" in the face of the most recent attack by US and British warplanes, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein vowed in a speech last week to mark the 13th anniversary of the end of the Iran-Iraq war.
"If you want to save your pilots and planes from the fire of the courageous combatants of Iraq, you must leave and take your planes and warships with you, and stop attacking Iraq," he said, addressing Washington and London.
The president’s remarks came after US planes on Tuesday bombed an Iraqi multiple rocket launcher in northern Iraq in what Pentagon officials said was an immediate response to a provocation.
Pentagon sources told CNN that the Iraqi rocket launcher fired three surface-to-air missiles at US planes patrolling the northern no-fly zone imposed by the Western coalition, and a US Air Force F-16 dropped two laser-guided bombs on the launcher in response.
The bomb damage has not been completely assessed, but a Pentagon official told the news service that it was believed the bombs hit the target, north of the Iraqi town of Mosul.
There was no immediate response from Baghdad.
The Pentagon said it was the first strike against Iraqi air defenses since July 17, when US planes bombed an air defense site in the southern no-fly zone.
The last time US planes bombed in the northern no-fly zone was June 14.
Pentagon sources told CNN that the United States had "put on hold" plans for large-scale "retaliatory" air strikes because of concern that the negative reaction from US allies in the region was not worth the limited effect the bombing would have on Iraqi air defenses.
Sources said the United States was back to its usual policy of striking smaller targets that threatened coalition planes on an "as needed" basis, adding that Tuesday's strike was an example of the policy, according to CNN.
US President George W. Bush, vacationing at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, denied the United States was ratcheting up military pressure in the region, but he used the occasion to denounce Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as "a menace."
The "no-fly" zones are not authorized by the UN.
The zones are ostensibly in place to protect Kurdish and Shiite Muslim minorities in Iraq. However, during the period in which US and British planes have been flying missions from Turkish airbases, Turkish forces have launched their own massive assaults on the Kurds – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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