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Iraq confirms U.S., British airstrike

Saturday, September 7, 2002

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq on Friday accused U.S. and British planes of striking civilian targets during an air raid southwest of Baghdad, and it claimed its anti-aircraft batteries chased off the attacking jets.

The U.S. military said Thursday that American and British planes attacked an air defense command and control facility at a military airfield 240 miles southwest of Baghdad.

The U.S. Central Command said the strike was a response to an Iraqi attack on allied aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone.

On Friday, Iraqi state newspapers quoted an unidentified Iraqi military spokesman as saying enemy warplanes had attacked "civil and service installations" in the al-Rutbah area on Thursday. They gave no further details about the sites.

Iraq almost invariably accuses allied planes of attacking civilian targets.

"Our courageous anti-aircraft units confronted the jets and forced them to leave Iraqi skies," the military spokes-man was quoted as saying.

Al-Rutbah is the last large town in western Iraq before the Jordanian border.

U.S. and British planes patrol no-fly zones over southern and northern Iraq. The zones were set up in the early 1990s to provide a measure of protection to Kurdish and Shiite Muslim communities against government forces.

Iraq does not recognize the zones. Its air defense units regularly challenge the allied patrols, provoking retaliatory strikes.

The strike occurred as the U.S. government works to mobilize foreign and domestic support for an effort to topple President Saddam Hussein, whom it accuses of making weapons of mass destruction.


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