Iraq says 8 civilians killed, 3 wounded in weekend airstrike

Monday, September 10, 2001

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq said Monday that eight civilians were killed in a weekend airstrike by U.S. and British warplanes on southern Iraq.

The Pentagon gave no word of casualties.

The official Iraqi News Agency said three others were wounded in the strike Sunday night in the al-Salhiya area of Wasit province, 100 miles south of Baghdad.

Witnesses said the civilians "were preparing for prayers when attacked by the savage U.S.-British warplanes," the news agency said. Property and shops also were destroyed, it said.

The U.S. Central Command in Florida has said its planes attacked two or more surface-to-air missile sites Sunday in southern Iraq in response to Iraqi threats against American and British aircraft patrolling no-fly zones over Iraq.

F-16, FA-18 and Royal Airforce Tornado aircraft took part in the hour-long strikes that started at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Maj. Brett Morris of the Saudi-based Joint Task Force South West Asia said Monday.

Damage assessments are continuing, he told The Associated Press, saying, "we strive to make these strikes as focused as possible to avoid civilian casualties or collateral damage."

The strikes were a response to Iraq's "multiple violations" of U.N.-imposed sanctions, Morris said. He did not elaborate on the alleged violations.

U.S. and British aircraft have been patrolling the no-fly zones since they were set up after the 1991 Gulf War to protect Kurdish rebels in the north and Shiite Muslim rebels in the south from government forces.

Iraq considers the zones illegal and has been challenging them since 1998. The government often claims civilian injuries or deaths have occurred because of U.S. attacks.

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