Iraq fires at US planes

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The Independent Online

Iraqi anti-aircraft gunners fired at US warplanes as they attacked targets in southern Iraq, state-run newspapers report.

Iraqi anti-aircraft gunners fired at US warplanes as they attacked targets in southern Iraq, state-run newspapers report.

The papers, quoting military sources, said theplanes entered Iraqi airspace in 20 waves yesterdaymorning and carried out 22 military sorties over theprovinces of Basra, Dhiqar, Missan, Najaf, Qadissiya,Muthana and Karbala, all in southern Iraq.

The United States, which along with Britain, policestwo no-fly zones over Iraq, said just six planesattacked military installations Monday, and that itwas in retaliation for antiaircraft fire from amilitary radar site in southern Iraq.

The US Central Command based in Florida said in astatement that four US Navy F/A-18 Hornets and twoF-14 Tomcats took part in the attack, then returnedsafely to the USS John F. Kennedy in the Gulf. TheUS statement said damage had yet to be assessed.

The Iraqi papers accused the US planes of attackingour civil and service installations. They reportedthat Iraqi antiaircraft gunners fired back, forcingthe attacking planes to flee to their hideouts ofevil and blasphemy in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Iraqs last reported attack was on November 28 when amilitary spokesman accused the United States andBritain of bombing a school in Mosul, 400 kilometers(250 miles) north of Baghdad, injuring eight people,among them school children.

US and British planes have been patrolling no-flyzones over northern and southern Iraq since the end ofthe 1991 Persian Gulf War, saying they are protectingKurds and Shiites there from attacks by Iraqi armedforces.

The allies say they target only military installationswhen they are fired upon and strive to limit civiliancasualties or damage.

Iraq says the zones are a violation of internationallaw and has frequently challenged the allied planessince December.

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