IRAQ: US LAUNCHES SERIES OF MILITARY STRIKES ON BAGHDAD

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(17 Dec 1998) Natural Sound

The U-S – backed by Britain – has launched a series of military strikes on Iraq and at least one missile has fallen near President Saddam Hussein’s biggest palace in the capital.

President Saddam Hussein said several targets had been struck.

In a statement carried by the official Iraqi News Agency, the president accused the U-S of cowardice for using long-range missiles instead of fighting face-to-face.

He also urged Iraqis to “fight the enemies of God, enemies of the nation, enemies of humanity”.

“God will be on your side and disgrace will be theirs, now and on the day of the judgement”, the statement added.

Iraqi officials two people were killed in the air attacks, while 30 others were wounded.

The first indication of the attack came when a barrage of anti-aircraft fire lit up the night sky at 2149 GMT on Wednesday, unleashing thunderous explosions and shaking windows of buildings.

The capital was shaken again by a second round of explosions from the anti-aircraft guns at 2200 GMT.

Baghdad was hit again at 2329 GMT and the fourth time at 0100 GMT.

All attacks lasted less than a minute.

Television pictures monitored outside the country showed explosions on the ground in the distance.

A fiery glow spread over the horizon.

Anti-aircraft guns firing from roof tops let loose volley after volley of shots, creating
orange traces.

The Information Ministry said it planned to take reporters to see the damage caused by one missile in the Karada neighbourhood.

Karada is across the Tigris river from the Old Presidential Complex in central Baghdad.

It is not clear if the palace has been damaged.

A second missile hit another neighbourhood in Baghdad, but its exact location could not immediately be confirmed.

According to medical staff at one Baghdad hospital, five people have been killed and 30 injured, many with burning and shrapnel wounds, in the attack.

But total casualties are still not known.

In all, there had been fives waves of air strikes on the Iraqi capital, lasting six hours.

As midday (0900 GMT) approached, there were no signs of more strikes in Baghdad.

The attack capped a day of swift developments that began with more than 100 U-N weapons inspectors leaving Baghdad for Bahrain on the orders of their boss, UNSCOM chairman Richard Butler.

A few hours earlier, Butler had submitted a report to U-N Secretary- General Kofi Annan, accusing Iraq of obstructing the inspectors despite a November 14 pledge to provide full
cooperation.

That pledge had averted a U-S attack on Iraq at the last moment.

U-S officials said Operation Desert Fox would be a four-day operation designed to strike key Iraqi military units and Saddam Hussein’s ability to produce weapons of mass destruction.

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