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U.S. Says Iraqi Bombing Done in Self-Defense

U.S. Says Iraqi Bombing Done in Self-Defense



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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Warplanes from the U.S.-British coalition bombed Iraqi military command and communication targets Thursday near Talil in southern Iraq, the U.S. military announced.

The strike, which took place about 8 a.m. Baghdad time, was a "self-defense" measure in response to the Iraqi military's downing of an American unmanned surveillance drone on Monday, according to a statement from U.S. Central Command, the military command that oversees operations in Iraq.

Defense officials said the targets are believed to have directed the attack on the drone.

The warplanes used precision bombs, the statement said.

An assessment of how much damage was done to the targets was ongoing, it said. No defensive fire from the Iraqis was detected, and all the coalition warplanes returned safely, defense officials said.

On Monday, an Iraqi MiG-25 fighter shot down a Predator drone conducting reconnaissance near Al Kut in eastern Iraq, U.S. military officials said. U.S. military officials said the MiG crossed into the "no-fly zone" over southern Iraq, which U.S. and British warplanes patrol to prevent Iraqi military planes from flying.

However, Iraqi state-run television appeared to say that ground-based air defenses shot it down.

Iraq says the patrols violate its sovereignty and its forces frequently shoot at allied pilots both in the northern zone set up "to protect the anti-Saddam Kurdish minority and the southern zone to protect Shiites. Iraq has never shot down a manned coalition warplane patrolling either no-fly zone.

The previous coalition strike in southern Iraq was Dec. 20, when warplanes bombed air defense sites near An Nasiriyah and Basra.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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