U.S. warplanes drop more than 30 bombs on Iraq
March 1, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Taking advantage of expanded rules of engagement, U.S. jets on Monday dropped more than 30 bombs on radio relay sites, communications targets and air defense guns in Iraq's northern no-fly zone, the Pentagon said.
Defense Secretary William Cohen stressed to reporters that U.S. pilots, when they are targeted by Iraqi forces, had been given increased flexibility to hit a range of air defense targets in no-fly zones.
"They are not simply going to respond to a triple-A (anti- aircraft artillery) site or to a SAM (surface-to-air missile) site," Cohen said. "They can go after command and control and communications centers as well that allow Saddam Hussein to try to target them and put them in jeopardy.
"So they have some flexibility, and they will continue to have that flexibility," he added.
Senior military officials said last month that U.S. pilots were being given more discretion to disrupt Iraqi air defenses.
In a statement from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, the U.S. European Command said F-15Es based at Incirlik "dropped more than 30 2,000-pound and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on Iraqi communications sites, radio relay sites and anti-aircraft artillery sites" near Mosul in response to radar threats.
Details were not provided, but Monday's strikes were among the most extensive of about 100 such incidents in the no-fly zones since late December. They came a day after U.S. jets struck a communications facility in the north, apparently interrupting the flow of Iraqi oil through a pipeline into Turkey.
That oil is used by Iraq to pay for food and medicine for civilians under an agreement with the United Nations.
Iraq claims civilian casualties
In Mosul, an Iraqi official said fresh raids took place on Monday on parts of the pipeline control system and a residential area in Ain Zahla, an oil area near Mosul.
"American warplanes caused civilian casualties and other damage to a link in the control system of the Iraqi-Turkish pipeline Monday, resulting in the isolation of the metering station in Zakho," the oil official told Reuters.
The United States says the relay station was sending information to anti-aircraft guns and was therefore a legitimate military target.
Cohen said Monday that U.S. airstrikes in the northern zone on Sunday "may or may not" have interrupted the flow of oil from Iraq to Turkey.
But he also told reporters that Hussein appeared to be withholding food and supplies to his people.
"I might point out, contrary to the Iraqi claims about this (Sunday's incident) jeopardizing the oil-for-food program, that the United Nations itself has pointed out that there is some $275 million in food and medicine and supplies which are stored in Iraqi warehouses that are not being distributed to the Iraqi people," Cohen said.
"And that is a responsibility and obligation that falls squarely on the shoulders of Saddam Hussein," he said.
U.S. and British planes, which patrol no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, have been striking Iraqi military sites on an almost daily basis since late December. The allies have said the airstrikes are in response to Iraq firing at the planes or locking its radar systems on to them.
The zones were set up after the 1991 Gulf War to protect Kurdish rebels in the north and Shiite Muslim insurgents in the south from Hussein's forces.
Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre and Reuters contributed to this report.
U.S. planes bomb targets in northern Iraq
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