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Saturday, March 6, 1999 Published at 16:58 GMT


Strike Eagles bomb Iraqi sites

Two F-15s take off from the US air base in Turkey

US F-15E Strike Eagle jets dropped laser-guided bombs on five Iraqi anti-aircraft sites in the northern no-fly zone on Saturday, US military officials say.

A spokesman at the US Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey said the planes released GBU-12 laser-guided bombs over artillery sites south of Saddam Lake.


[ image:  ]
A US statement said the strikes began after US and British planes patrolling the no-fly zone observed Iraqi anti-aircraft fire. No damage to the Western aircraft was reported.

The Iraqi sites were near the city of Mosul, some 400km (250 miles) north of Baghdad.

Iraq says a number of people were injured in attacks in both the north and south of the country.

An Iraqi military spokesman said Iraqi air defence confronted the attacking aircraft and forced them to flee.

US defends policy

Earlier, the US Defence Secretary, William Cohen, defended the current series of air strikes on Iraq.

In a speech in Bahrain, he said enforcement of the no-fly zones was needed "to keep Iraq from attacking its own people or its neighbours".

"Our aircraft will continue to target Iraq's air defence system as long as Iraq uses that system to challenge our planes," Mr Cohen said.

For its part, Iraq has urged Arab leaders to boycott Mr Cohen's current tour of the region. It has also said Baghdad would find the means to shoot down US and British planes over its territory.

An official Iraqi newspaper, Al-Qadissia, said Mr Cohen was "enjoying himself on Arab land" only days after announcing "greater flexibility" for US pilots to attack Iraqi air defences.

Another official paper, Al-Jumhuriya, said Iraq was "determined to oppose the US and British planes which overfly the north and south of the country without any authorisation from the (United Nations) Security Council".



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