U.S., British warplanes attack Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries

Friday, September 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ U.S. and British warplanes struck two anti-aircraft sites in southern Iraq on Friday in their second attack in as many days, a U.S. military spokesman said.

He said the bombings were a response to Baghdad's hostile activity against allied planes patrolling the ``no-fly zones'' over northern and southern Iraq.

The U.S. and British planes targeted military vehicles and equipment in Al-Amrah, 155 miles south of Baghdad, and Talil, 170 miles south of Baghdad, said Chief Petty Officer David Nagle, deputy spokesman for the U.S.-British Joint Task Force Southwest Asia, which is responsible for patrolling the southern no-fly zone.

The aircraft returned to their bases safely, Nagle said.

The official Iraqi News Agency quoted unidentified military spokesmen as saying enemy warplanes attacked civil and service installations. It gave no details and reported no casualties.

Britain's Defense Ministry said in a statement that the airstrikes reflected sustained threats to allied air patrols and had nothing to do with last week's terror attacks in the United States. It said the aircraft, which included British Tornado GR4s, targeted Iraqi surface-to-air missile batteries.

``Initial damage assessment is that the actions were successful and there are no indications that any collateral damage or civilian casualties have been caused,'' the statement said, emphasizing that the U.S. and British planes use precise weapons and try to avoid civilian casualties.

The no-fly zones were established in the years after the Persian Gulf War to prevent Iraqi forces from attacking Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south, and to provide early warning of Iraqi troop movements. Iraq says they are illegal and has vowed to shoot down any coalition planes.

Iraq has fired more than 400 times at coalition aircraft this year, compared to 300 times in all of 2000, U.S. officials have said. Iraqi air defense targets in southern Iraq have come under attack with increased regularity.

On Thursday, U.S. and British planes fired at anti-aircraft artillery sites at Basra and Nasiriya.