US planes strike Iraqi air-defense facility


US warplanes bombed Iraqi air-defense facilities yesterday after coalition aircraft patrolling a "no-fly" zone in the south of the country came under fire, the US military said.

In Baghdad, an Iraqi military spokesman said seven people were wounded when US and British warplanes struck civilian targets in the south of the country. The spokesman also said anti-aircraft missile defenses might have hit one of the attacking Western warplanes.

In a statement released from its headquarters in Tampa, Florida, the US Central Command said the warplanes used precision-guided weapons to strike Iraqi air defense facilities in response to Iraqi attacks on coalition aircraft. The site was targeted because it helped direct the Iraqi attacks against the coalition warplanes, according to the statement.

In London, a spokesman for Britain's Ministry of Defense said none of its aircraft were involved in the incident.

US and British jets patrol no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq set up by Western powers after the 1991 Gulf War. The incident was the latest in a long series of tit-for-tat exchanges in the "no-fly" zones.

The zones, which the Iraqi government does not recognize, were imposed to protect Shi'ite Muslims in the south and a Kurdish enclave in the north from possible attack by government forces.