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Monday, March 15, 1999 Published at 15:39 GMT


US jets strike Iraqi targets

Iraq has declared the US presence illegal

United States planes have again struck Iraqi targets in the northern and southern air exclusion zones.

The US military said the latest attack in the north took place at 1215 local time (0915GMT) on Monday during routine patrols. It said the planes struck Iraqi air defence sites in self-defence after Iraqi threats.

US warplanes also struck Iraqi radar sites in southern Iraq in response to violations of the no-fly zone by Iraqi aircraft, AFP news agency reported.

At about 0945 local time (0645GMT) on Monday, US air force F-16s and navy F/A-18s and F-14s attacked "an Iraq radar relay site 200 miles (320km) northeast of Baghdad and a radar site 290 miles (464km) southeast of Baghdad", the US Central Command said in a statement.

Iraq has said one person was injured when US and British warplanes attacked sites in the southern zone, Reuters news agency reported.

The Iraqi News Agency quoted an air defence source as saying that the planes "bombed some of our civil facilities and weapon sites leading to injuring a citizen".

Regular bombings

The latest incidents follow strikes on Sunday and on Friday in the northern no-fly zone.

Strikes against military targets have become a regular event since Baghdad announced in December that it would actively oppose the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq, imposed by the US and Britain after the 1991 Gulf War.

Iraq, which does not recognise the no-fly zones, has repeatedly challenged patrolling American and British jets this year, sparking retaliatory strikes. Baghdad believes the zones are contrary to international law.

Turkish concern

Turkey, which fears reprisals from Baghdad for allowing allied planes to use its bases, has recently expressed concern over the repeated confrontations between Iraqi and US forces in the northern zone.

US planes from the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey patrol Iraqi skies north of the 36th parallel.

The US says the northern no-fly zone exists to protect the area's Kurdish population from attack by President Saddam Hussein's forces.

A similar zone in the south is aimed at protecting the Shi'ites and is monitored by planes based in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The US Government says two months of air strikes have damaged Iraqi air defences more than the four days of full-scale attacks on the country in December's Operation Desert Fox.



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