Iraq Says 3 Wounded in No-Fly Zone Air Strike

Iraq said three civilians were wounded on Thursday [February 28] when Western warplanes struck targets inside the country’s northern no-fly zone. Baghdad was forced to accept U.N. arms inspectors following its defeat by a U.S.-led international force in the Gulf War, but the inspectors abandoned the country in 1998. Despite Iraq’s denial, U.S. officials say Baghdad has used the last three years to press ahead with weapons development.

2002.02.28

Iraq said three civilians were wounded on Thursday when Western warplanes struck targets inside the country’s northern no-fly zone.

The U.S. military said its aircraft attacked Iraqi air defence sites in the zone after radar and anti-aircraft guns targeted patrolling Western planes.

“At 12:00 a.m. (0900 GMT) today U.S. and British warplanes carried 13 sorties coming from Turkey…and flew over Zakho, Dibis, Amadiya, Aqrah, Duhouk and Ain Zala,” an Iraqi military spokesman said in a statement carried by the official Iraqi News Agency INA.

“The enemy attacked civilian and service installations… wounding three civilians,” the spokesman said.

He added Iraq’s ground air defences fired at the planes and forced them to return to their bases.

The U.S.-European command based in Germany said all warplanes left the area safely. There was no immediate report of damage on the ground.

U.S. and British jets have been policing no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq for more than a decade. The zones were set up after the 1991 Gulf War to protect Kurds and Shi’ite Muslims from attack by President Saddam Hussein’s military.

The exchange, the latest in a long series, came amid recent media reports of growing debate within Washington over what to do about U.S. determination to remove Saddam from power.

Although President George W. Bush recently branded Iraq as part of an “axis of evil” along with North Korea and Iran, there has been no indication that the United States might attack Baghdad.

U.S. officials say that Iraq continues to work on the development of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Iraq admits that it once sought to develop biological agents but says it no longer has any such weapons programme.

Baghdad was forced to accept U.N. arms inspectors following its defeat by a U.S.-led international force in the Gulf War, but the inspectors abandoned the country in 1998 [ see: CounterSpin: A special discussion with Scott Ritter, former team leader of UNSCOM weapons inspectors in Iraq – http://www.webactive.com/webactive/cspin/cspin20020510.html ].

Despite Iraq’s denial, U.S. officials say Baghdad has used the last three years to press ahead with weapons development.

When was the last time the U.S. Bombed Iraq? – http://www.ccmep.org/us_bombing_watch.html

Author: Reuters

News Service: U.S. Bombing Watch

URL: http://www.ccmep.org/us_bombing_watch.html#1/24/02