US warplanes attack Iraqi command centre


US warplanes have bombed an Iraqi military command centre after aircraft patrolling a no-fly zone in the south of the country came under artillery fire, the US military said.

It followed a warning by the top US general that Iraq had been making increased efforts to shoot down US and British airplanes enforcing no-fly zones in the north and south of the country.

A spokesman at US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, said the aircraft "used precision-guided weapons to strike facilities of a military offensive command and control centre."

There was no immediate comment from Baghdad on the US report. Iraq has in the past condemned such attacks, hundreds of which have been carried out since international weapons inspectors were pulled out of the country in 1998.

The last US attack was on June 20th, when Iraq said four four people were killed and that "service and civilian installations" had been hit. That was the second such bombing in two days.

The no-fly zones were established after the 1991 Gulf War in an attempt to protect minority groups opposed to Saddam from attack by Iraqi forces.

There is speculation that Washington is preparing for a possible invasion of Iraq to oust President Saddam Hussein.

The United States accuses the dictator of backing international terrorism and trying to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.