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The BBC's Paul Reynolds
"The Bush administration is trying to tighten the squeeze on on Saddam Hussein"
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The BBC's Ben Brown
"Iraqi television shows doctors busily treating the wounded"
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The BBC's Tom Carver
"This has been in the pipeline for some time"
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US President, George Bush
"We will take appropriate action"
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Lt. Gen Gregory Newbold
briefs journalists in the Pentagon
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Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 01:35 GMT
US and UK planes bomb Baghdad

The United States and the United Kingdom have carried out bombing raids on targets close to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

According to Pentagon, 24 aircraft from both countries attacked Iraqi air defence facilities south of Baghdad at about 2030 local time (1730GMT).

The Iraqi authorities said at least one civilian, a woman, was killed in the raids, and at least nine people had been wounded, including three children.

Raid on Iraq
1620GMT: 24 planes start mission
1730GMT: Attack targets
1840GMT: Planes clear Iraqi airspace

The White House said that President George W Bush had personally approved the raid - his first military strike - on Thursday before he left Washington for his state visit to Mexico on Friday.

Air raid sirens sounded in the streets of Baghdad, and there were reports of anti-aircraft fire and loud explosions.

Children injured

Shortly afterwards, Iraqi television interrupted its programmes to announce: "Baghdad has come under attack by American aggressors."

Speaking on television Health Minister, Umaid Mehdat, said: "The injured are women, children and old people, some are critical cases,"

Reacting to the raids Iraq vowed to fight on to victory against the United States and blamed the first US bombing of Baghdad in two years on a Zionist plot.

The pledge came in an official communiqué released after President Saddam Hussein chaired a meeting of military and political chiefs.

The aggression will not force Iraq to give up its rights," said the statement. "Aggression and threats do not discourage Iraq."

'Routine mission'

Speaking at a news conference in Mexico, President Bush said: "A routine mission was conducted to enforce the "no-fly" zone and it is a mission about which I was informed about and I authorised."

Iraqi victim
Iyad Ahmad Salman lies injured after allegedly being injured in the attacks

"Saddam Hussein has got to understand that we expect him to conform to the agreement that he signed after Desert Storm."

US General Gregory Newbold said 24 aircraft attacked five command and control centres between eight and 32km (five and 20 miles) south of Baghdad.

General Newbold said the raid was to safeguard allied air patrols over a southern no-fly zone, but did not anticipate further raids in the near future.

Increased threat

Britain's Defence Minster Geoff Hoon said that the attacks had been a "proportionate response" to the increased threat to the aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone.

"Saddam Hussein should be clear that we will not tolerate continued attempts to endanger the lives of our aircrew," he said in a statement.

The two no fly zones, one to the north of the 36th parallel and one to the south of the 32nd parallel, were unilaterally created by the US, Britain and France soon after the Gulf War.

Aircraft ban

The northern zone was established after Baghdad mobilised helicopter gunships to quell a Kurdish uprising. The southern zone was imposed to protect Shi'a Muslims who also rebelled against Baghdad.

Iraq was banned from using all aircraft, including helicopters, in the air exclusion zones.

A Pentagon spokesman said no planes flew north of the 33rd parallel - the upper boundary of the southern no-fly zone - but used long-range precision-guided weapons to strike radar and command and control targets south of the capital.

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See also:

16 Feb 01 | Middle East
Russia condemns Baghdad bombing
16 Feb 01 | Middle East
West 'provoked' into bombings
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